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

Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 6th December, 1945
(Part 4 of 9)


They could not possibly bombard or destroy any place where there happened to be Germans living. Warsaw, Rotterdam, England, London, - I wonder whether any sentiments of that kind were held in consideration in regard to those places.

"Ciano asked how soon, according to the Fuehrer's view, the Danzig question must be settled. The Fuehrer answered that this settlement must be made one way or another by the end of August. To the question of Ciano as to what solution the Fuehrer proposed, Hitler answered that Poland must give up political control of Danzig, but that Polish economic interests would obviously be preserved and that Polish general behaviour must contribute to a general lessening of the tension. He doubted whether Poland was ready to accept this solution since, up to the present, the German proposals had been refused. The Fuehrer had made this proposal personally to Beck, on his visit to Obersalzberg. They were extremely favourable to Poland. In return for the political surrender of Danzig, under a complete guarantee of Polish interests, and the establishment of a connection between East Prussia and the Reich, Germany would have given a frontier guarantee, a 25-year pact of friendship, and the participation of Poland in influence over Slovakia. Beck had received the proposal with the remark that he was willing to examine it. The plain refusal of it came only as a result of English intervention. The general Polish aims could be seen clearly from the Press. They wanted the whole of East Prussia, and even proposed to advance to Berlin."

That was something quite different.

The meeting was held over that night, and it continued on the following day.

It will be seen, on Page 7, in the middle of the page:-

"The Fuehrer had therefore come to two definite conclusions:-

(1) in the event of any further provocation, he would immediately attack;

(2) if Poland did not clearly and plainly state her political intention, she must be forced to do so."

I go to the last line on that page:-

"As matters now stand, Germany and Italy would simply not exist further in the world through the lack of space; not only was there no more space, but existing space was completely blockaded by its present possessors; they sat like misers with their heaps of gold, and deluded themselves about their riches. The Western Democracies were dominated by the desire to rule the world and would not regard Germany and Italy as their class. This psychological element of contempt was perhaps the worst thing about the whole business. It could only be settled by a life and death struggle, which the two Axis partners could meet more easily because their interests did not clash on any point.

The Mediterranean was obviously the most ancient domain for which Italy had a claim to predominance. The Duce himself had summed up the position to him in the words that Italy was already the dominant power in the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the Fuehrer said that

[Page 153]

Germany must take the old German road Eastwards and that this road was also desirable for economic reasons, and that Italy had geographical and historical claims to permanency in the Mediterranean. Bismarck had recognised it and had said as much in his well-known letter to Manzini. The interests of Germany and Italy went in quite different directions and there never could be a conflict between them.

Ribbentrop added that if the two problems mentioned in yesterday's conversations were settled, Italy and Germany would have their backs free for work against the West. The Fuehrer said that Poland must be struck down so that for 50 years" - there appears to have been a query raised in the translation - "for so many years she would be incapable of fighting. In such a case, matters in the West could be settled.

Ciano thanked the Fuehrer for his extremely clear explanation of the situation. He had, on his side, nothing to add and would give the Duce full details. He asked for more definite information on one point, in order that the Duce might have all the facts before him. The Duce might indeed have to make no decision because the Fuehrer believed that the conflict with Poland could be localised on the basis of long experience. He - Ciano - quite saw that so far the Fuehrer had always been right in his judgement of the position. If, however, Mussolini had no decision to make, he had to take certain measures of precaution, and therefore Ciano would put the following questions.

The Fuehrer had mentioned two conditions under which he would take Poland (1) if Poland were guilty of serious provocation, and (2) if Poland did not make her political position clear. The first of these conditions depended on the decision of the Fuehrer, and German reaction could follow in a moment. The second condition required certain decisions as to time. Ciano therefore asked what was the date by which Poland must have satisfied Germany about her political condition. He realised that this date depended upon climatic conditions.

The Fuehrer answered that the decision of Poland must be made clear at the latest by the end of August. Since, however, the decisive part of military operations against Poland could be carried out within a period of 14 days, and the final liquidation would need only another four weeks, it could be finished at the end of September or the beginning of October. These could be regarded as the dates. It followed, therefore, that the last date on which he could begin to take action was the end of August.

Finally, the Fuehrer assured Ciano that since his youth he had favoured German-Italian co-operation, and that no other view was expressed in his books. He had always thought that Germany and Italy were naturally suited for collaboration, since there were no conflicts of interest between them. He was personally fortunate to live at a time in which, apart from himself, there was one other statesman who would stand out great and unique in history; that he could be this man's friend was for him a matter of great personal satisfaction, and if the hour of common battle struck he would always be found on the side of the Duce."

THE PRESIDENT: We might adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

[Page 154]

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: If the Tribunal please, I never actually put that last document that I was referring to in as an exhibit. It is Document TC-77, which becomes Exhibit GB 48.

Having referred the Tribunal to those documents showing that the military preparations were throughout the whole period in hand and nearing their completion, I would refer to one letter from the defendant Funk, showing that at the same time the economists had not been idle. It is a letter dated 26th August, 1939, in which Funk is writing to his Fuehrer. He says:-

"My Fuehrer

I thank you sincerely and heartily for your most friendly and kind wishes on the occasion of my birthday. How happy and how grateful to you we ought to be for being granted the favour of experiencing these overwhelmingly great and world-changing times, and taking part in the mighty events of these days.

The information given to me by Field Marshal Goering, that you, my Fuehrer, yesterday evening approved in principle the measures prepared by me for financing the war, and for shaping the relationship between wages and prices, and for carrying through emergency sacrifices, made me deeply happy. I hereby report to you, with all respect, that I have succeeded by means of precautions taken during the last few months, in making the Reichsbank internally so strong and externally so unassailable, that even the most serious shocks in the international money and credit market cannot affect us in the least. In the meantime, I have quite inconspicuously changed into gold all the assets of the Reichsbank and of the whole of the German economy abroad which it was possible to lay hands on. Under the proposals, I have prepared for a ruthless elimination of all consumption which is not of vital importance, and of all public expenditure and public works which are not of importance for the war effort. We will be in a position to cope with all demands on finance and economy, without any serious shocks. I have considered it my duty as the general plenipotentiary for economy appointed by you to make this report and solemn promise to you, my Fuehrer.

Heil my Fuehrer (signed) Walter Funk."

That Document is PS-699, and it goes in as Exhibit GB 49.

It is difficult in view of that letter to see how the defendant Funk can say that he did not know of the preparations and of the intentions of the German Government to wage war.

I come now to the speech which Hitler made on 22nd August at Obersalzberg to his commanders-in-chief. By the end of the third week of August, preparations were complete. That speech has already been read to the Tribunal. I would, perhaps, ask the Tribunal's patience if I quoted literally half a dozen lines so as to carry the story on in sequence.

On the first page of PS-1014, which is already Exhibit US 30, the fourth line:

"Everybody shall have to make a point of it that wt were determined from the beginning to fight the Western powers."

The second paragraph:

"Destruction of Poland is in the foreground. The aim is the elimination of living forces, not the arrival at a certain line. Even if

[Page 155]

war should break out in the West, the destruction of Poland shall be the primary objective."

Again, the famous sentence in the third paragraph:

"I shall give a propagandistic cause for starting the war-never mind whether it be plausible or not. The victor shall not be asked later on whether we told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not the 'Recht' is what matters, but victory."

We are going to see only too clearly how that propagandistic cause, which already had been put in hand, was brought to its climax.

I turn to the next page, the third paragraph:

"It was clear to me that a conflict with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in the spring, but I thought that I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only afterwards against the East."

I refer to these passages again particularly to emphasise the intention of the Nazi Government, not only to conquer Poland, but ultimately, in any event, to wage aggressive war against the Western Democracies.

I refer lastly to the last page, a passage which becomes more and more significant as we continue the story of the last few days. I quote from the fourth paragraph:

"We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal, lead and zinc. It is a big aim, which demands great efforts. I am only afraid that at the last minute some 'Schweinehund' will make a proposal for mediation.

The political aim is set farther. A beginning has been made for the destruction of England's hegemony. The same is open for the soldier, after I have made the political preparations."

And, again, the very last line becomes significant later:

"Goering answers with thanks to the Fuehrer and the assurance that the Armed Forces will do their duty."

We pass from the military-economic preparations and his exhortations to his generals to see how he was developing the position in the diplomatic and political field.

On 23rd August, 1939, the Danzig Senate passed a decree whereby Gauleiter Forster was appointed head of the State of the Free City of Danzig, a position which did not exist under the statute setting up the constitution of the Free City. I put in the next document, which is taken from the British Blue Book, only as evidence of that event, an event that was, of course, aimed at stirring up the feeling in the Free City at that time. That is TC-72, Number 62, which becomes Exhibit GB 50.

At the same time, frontier incidents were being manufactured by the Nazi Government with the aid of the S.S. The Tribunal has already heard by evidence of General Lahousen the other day in which he referred to the provision of Polish uniforms to the S.S. Forces for these purposes, so that dead Poles could be found lying about the German side of the frontier. I refer the Tribunal now to three short reports which corroborate the evidence that that gentleman came and gave before you, and they are found in the British Blue Book. They are reports from the British Ambassador in Warsaw.

The first of them, TC-72, Number 53, which becomes Exhibit GB 51, is dated 26th August.

[Page 156]

"A series of incidents again occurred yesterday on German frontier. Polish patrol met a party of Germans one kilometre from the East Prussian frontier near Pelta. Germans opened fire. Polish patrol replied, killing leader, whose body is being returned. German bands also crossed Silesian frontier near Szczygle, twice near Rybnik and twice elsewhere, firing shots and attacking blockhouses and customs posts with machine guns and hand grenades. Poles have protested vigorously to Berlin.

Gazeta Polska, an inspired leader today, says these are more than incidents. They are clearly prepared acts of aggression of para-military disciplined detachments, supplied with regular army's weapons; in one case it was a regular army detachment. Attacks more or less continuous.

These incidents did not cause Poland to forsake calm and strong attitude of defence. Facts spoke for themselves and acts of aggression came from German side. This was the best answer to the ravings of German Press.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs state uniformed German detachment has since shot Pole across frontier and wounded another."

I pass to the next report, TC-72, Number 54, which becomes Exhibit GB 52- It is dated the same date, 26th August.

"Ministry for Foreign Affairs categorically deny story recounted by Hitler to the French Ambassador, that twenty-four Germans were recently killed at Lodz and eight at Bielsko. The story is without any foundation whatever."

And lastly, TC-72, Number 55, which becomes Exhibit GB 53, the report of the next day, 27th August.

"So far as I can judge, German allegations of mass ill- treatment of German minority by Polish authorities are gross exaggeration, if not complete falsification.

2. There is no sign of any loss of control of situation by Polish civil authorities. Warsaw, and so far as I can ascertain, the rest of Poland is still completely calm.

3. Such allegations are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda methods regarding Czechoslovakia last year.

4. In any case it is purely and simply deliberate German provocation in accordance with fixed policy that has since March" - since the date when the rest of Czechoslovakia was seized and they were ready to go against Poland - "that has since March exacerbated feeling between the two nationalities. I suppose this has been done with the object (a) creating war spirit in Germany, (b) impressing public opinion abroad, (c) provoking either defeatism or apparent aggression in Poland.

5. It has signally failed to achieve either of the two latter objects.

6. It is noteworthy that Danzig was hardly mentioned by Herr Hitler.

7. German treatment of Czech Jews and Polish minority is apparently negligible factor compared with alleged sufferings of Germans in Poland where, be it noted, they do not amount to more than 10 per cent of the population in any commune.

8. In the face of these facts it can hardly be doubted that, if Herr Hitler decides on war, it is for the sole purpose of destroying Polish independence.

[Page 157]

9. I shall lose no opportunity of impressing on Minister for Foreign Affairs necessity of doing everything possible to prove that Hitler's allegations regarding German minority are false."

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