The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 17, 1945 to January 4, 1946

Twenty-Seventh Day: Friday, 4th January, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)


Finally, a week before the actual attack on Poland, and when all the military plans have been laid , we find the Group as defined in the Indictment all in one place, in fact, all in one room. On 23rd August the Oberbefehlshaber assembled at the Obersalzberg to hear Hitler's explanation of the timing of the attack, and for political and diplomatic orientation from the head of the State. This speech has already been read from at length. It is found in Document 798-PS, Exhibit USA 29, and I pass over it, except to note and emphasise that it is addressed to the very group defined in the Indictment as the General Staff and High Command group. It is, incidentally, the second of the two examples referred to in the affidavits by Halder and Brauchitsch, numbers 1 and 2, which I read previously.

We have now come to the point where Germany actually launched the war. Within a few weeks, and before any important action on the Western Front, Poland was overrun and conquered; German losses were insignificant.

The three principal territorial questions mentioned in the Blomberg and Blaskowitz affidavits were all solved. The Rhineland had been reoccupied and fortified; Memel was annexed; the Polish Corridor had

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been annexed. There was a good deal more, too: Austria a part of the Reich; Czechoslovakia occupied; and all of Western Poland in German hands. Germany was superior in arms and in experience to her Western enemies, France and England.

Then came the three black years of the war - 1939, 1940 and 1941 - when German armed might swung like a great scythe from North to South to East: Norway and Denmark; the Low Countries; France; Italy became an ally of Germany; Tripoli and Egypt; Yugoslavia and Greece; Roumania, Hungary and Bulgaria became allies; the Western part of the Soviet Union was overrun.

I would like to deal as a whole with the period from the fall of Poland in October, 1939, to the attack against the Soviet Union in June of 1941. In this period occurred the aggressive wars in violation of treaties, as charged in the Indictment, against Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Jugoslavia, and Greece.

I cannot improve on or add much to the presentation of these matters by the British Delegation. From the standpoint of proving Crimes Against Peace, our case is complete. But I would like to review this period briefly from the military standpoint and view it as the German military leaders viewed it. Of one thing we may be sure: Neither the Nazis nor the Generals thought during this period in terms of a series of violations of neutrality and treaties. They thought in terms of a war, a war of conquest, a war for the conquest of Europe. Neutrality, treaties, non- aggression pacts - these were not the major consideration. They were annoying obstacles, and devices had to be formed and excuses manufactured to fit the circumstances.

Von Blomberg has told us in his affidavit, which I have read, that after 1939 some generals began to condemn Hitler's methods and lost confidence in his judgment. Which particular Hitler method some of the generals condemned is not stated, but I think the Tribunal will not hear any substantial evidence that many of the generals condemned the march of conquest during the years 1939 to 1941.

In fact the evidence is, rather, that most of the generals were having the time of their lives during those years. Six weeks after the outbreak of the war and upon the successful termination of the Polish campaign, on 9th October, 1939, there was issued a memorandum and directive for the conduct of the war in the West. That is Document L-52, and becomes Exhibit USA 540. It is not signed. It was distributed only to the four service chiefs, Keitel, Brauchitsch, Goering and Raeder. From the wording there is every indication that it was issued by Hitler. I will read an extract starting with Page 2 of the document, about two-thirds of the way down in the first paragraph, beginning from the words "The aim of the Anglo-French conduct of war":

"The aim of the Anglo-French conduct of war is to dissolve or disintegrate the 80-million- State again so that in this manner the European equilibrium, in other words, the balance of power, which serves their ends, may be restored. This battle, therefore, will have to be fought out by the German people one way or another. Nevertheless the very great successes of the first month of war could serve, in the event of an immediate signing of peace, to strengthen the Reich psychologically and materially to such an extent that from the German

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viewpoint there would be no objection to ending the war immediately, in so far as the present achievement with arms is not jeopardised by the peace-treaty.

It is not the object of this memorandum to study the possibilities in this direction, or even to take them into consideration. In this paper I shall confine myself exclusively to the other case: the necessity to continue the fight, the object of which, as already stressed, consists, in so far as the enemy is concerned, in the dissolution or destruction of the German Reich. In opposition to this the German war aim is the final military dispatch of the West, i.e., destruction of the power and ability of the Western Powers ever again to be able to oppose the State consolidation and further development of the German people in Europe. As far as the outside world is concerned, however, this internal aim will have to undergo various propaganda adjustments, necessary from a psychological point of view. This does not alter the war aim. It is and remains the destruction of our Western enemies."

I now pass to Page 3 of the translation, paragraph 2, and the sub-heading "Reasons":

The successes of the Polish campaign have made possible first of all a war on a single front, awaited for past decades without any hope of realisation ...

That is to say, Germany is able to enter the fight in the West with all her might, leaving only a few covering troops. The remaining European States are neutral, either because they fear for their own fates, or lack interest in the conflict as such, or are interested in a certain outcome of the war which prevents them from taking part at all, or at any rate too soon.

The following is to be firmly borne in mind . . . "

And at this point I interpolate a succession of references to countries, and then pass to Belgium and Holland at the foot of page 3:
"Belgium and Holland. Both countries are interested in preserving their neutrality but incapable of withstanding prolonged pressure from England and France. The preservation of their colonies, the maintenance of their trade, and thus the securing of their interior economy, even of their very life, depend wholly upon the will of England and France. Therefore in their decisions, in their attitude, and in their actions both countries are dependent in the highest degree upon the West. If England and France promise themselves a successful result at the price of Belgian neutrality, they are at any time in a position to apply the necessary pressure. That is to say, without covering themselves with the odium of a breach of neutrality, they can compel Belgium and Holland to cease to be neutral. Therefore, in the matter of the preservation of Belgo-Dutch neutrality, time is not a factor which might promise a favourable development for Germany."
The final paragraph to be read is as follows:
"The Nordic States: Provided no completely unforeseen factors appear, their neutrality in the future is also to be assumed. The con tinuation of German trade with these countries appears possible even in a war of long duration."
Six weeks later, on 23rd November, 1939, our group as defined in the Indictment - The Oberbefehlshaber - again assembled, as found in Document

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789-PS, already in the record as Exhibit USA 23, and heard from Hitler much of what he had said previously to the four service chiefs. This speech, part of which is already in the record, contains other portions not previously read from and now of interest, and the first extract which I would like to read is on Page 2 of the translation, about half- way down in paragraph 1, starting with the words "For the first time in history we have to fight on only one front." Iquote:
"For the first time in history we have to fight on only one front, the other front is at present free. But no one can know how long that will remain so. I have doubted for a long time whether I should strike in the East and then in the West. Basically I did not organise the Armed Forces in order not to strike. The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later, I wanted to solve the problem. Under pressure it was decided that the East was to be attacked first. If the Polish war was won so quickly, it was due to the superiority of our Armed Forces. The most glorious appearance in history. Unexpectedly small expenditures of men and material. Now the Eastern front is held by only a few divisions. It is a situation which we viewed previously as unachievable. Now the situation is as follows: The opponent in the West liesbehind his fortification. There is no possibility of coming to grips With him. The decisive question is: How long can we endure this situation?"
Passing to Page 3 of that document, line 3:
"Everything is determined by the fact that the moment is favourable now; in six months it might not be so any more."
The final passage on Page 4 of the translation, in the long paragraph about half-way down, beginning "England cannot live without her imports. We can feed . . . ":
"England cannot live without her imports. We can feed ourselves. The permanent sowing of mines on the English coasts will bring England to her knees. However, this can occur only if we have occupied Belgium and Holland. It is a difficult decision for me. None has ever achieved what I have achieved. My life is of no importance in all this. I have led the German people to a great height, even if the world does hate us now. I risk the loss of this achievement. I have to choose between victory or destruction. I choose victory. Greatest historical choice, to be compared with the decision of Frederick the Great before the first Silesian war. Prussia owes its rise to the heroism of one man. Even there the closest advisers were disposed to capitulation. Everything depended on Frederick the Great. Even the decisions of Bismarck in 1866 and 1870 were no less great. My decision is unchangeable. I shall attack France and England at the most favourable and earliest moment. Breach of the neutrality of Belgium and Holland is meaningless. No one will question that when we have won. We shall not bring about the breach of neutrality as idiotically as it was done in 1914. If we do not break the neutrality, then England and France will. Without attack the war cannot be ended victoriously. I consider it possible to end the war only by means of an attack. The question as to whether the attack will be successful, no one can answer. Everything depends upon the favourable instant."

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Thereafter the winter of 1939 and 1940 passed quietly, the winter of so-called " phony war."

The General Staff and High Command Group all knew what the plan was -- they had all been told. To attack ruthlessly at the first opportunity; to smash the French and English forces; to pay no heed to treaties with or neutrality of the Low Countries. "Breach of the neutrality of Holland and Belgium is meaningless. No one will question that when we have won."

That is what Hitler told the Oberbefehishaber. The generals and admirals agreed and went forward with their plan.

Now it is not true that all the steps in this march of conquest were conceived by Hitler, and that the military leaders embarked on them with reluctance and misgivings. To show this we need only hark back for a moment to what Major Elwyn Jones told the Tribunal about the plans for the invasion of Denmark and Norway.

The Tribunal will recall that Hitler's utterances in October and November, which I have just read, although they are full of threatening comments about France and England and the Low Countries, contain no suggestion of an attack on Scandinavia. Indeed, Hitler's memorandum of 9th October, from which I read, Document L-52, affirmatively indicates that Hitler saw no reason to disturb the situation in the North, because he said that, unless unforeseen factors appeared, the neutrality of the Northern states could be assumed. Trade could be continued with those countries, even in a long war. But a week previously, on 3rd October, 1939, the defendant Raeder had caused a questionnaire to be circulated within the Naval War Staff, seeking comments on the advantages which might be gained from a naval standpoint, by securing bases in Norway and Denmark. That document is C-122, Exhibit GB-82. And another document introduced by Major Elwyn Jones, C-66, which is Exhibit GB-81, shows that Raeder was prompted to circulate this questionnaire by a letter from another admiral named Karls, who pointed out the importance of an occupation of the Norwegian coast by Germany. Admiral Karls, Rolf Karls, later attained the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and commanded Naval Group "North" and in that capacity is a member of the group as defined in the Indictment, just as Raeder is.

The Tribunal will also recall that the defendant Donitz, who at that time was Flag Officer Submarines, replied to this questionnaire from Raeder on 9th October, 1939. The document in question is C-5, Exhibit GB-83. Doernitz replied that from his standpoint Trondheim. and Narvik met the requirements of a submarine base, that Trondheirn was better, and that he proposed the establishment of a U-boat base there. The next day Raeder visited Hitler, and this visit and certain subsequent events are described in a document which has not previously been introduced.

Now, your Honour, owing to a confusion in numbering, the German document is C-71, but the translation appears in your book in Document L-323.and that will be Exhibit USA 541. The translation will be found in L-323, the middle of the page, entitled "Entry in the War Diary of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Naval War Staff, on Weseruebung," that being the code name for the operation against Norway and Denmark:

"10th October, 1939. First reference of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy (Naval War Staff) when visiting the Fuehrer, to the significance of Norway for sea and air warfare. The Fuehrer intends to give the matter consideration.

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12th December 1939. Fuehrer receivied "Q" and "H" - those being presumably Quisling and Hagelin.

Subsequent instructions to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces to make mental preparations. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy is having an essay prepared which will be ready in January."

With reference to this essay Kapitaen zur See Kranke is working on "Weseruebung" at O.K.W. During the time which followed, H - Hagelin - maintained contact with the Chief of Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. His aim was to develop the Party Q -- Quisling -- with a view to making it capable of making a coup and to give the Supreme Command of the Navy information on the political developments in Norway and military questions. In general he pressed the speeding up of preparations, but considered that it was first necessary to expand the organisation.

I think that is all I need read of that.

Another document, which is C-64, Exhibit GB-86 - already in the record - shows that on 12th December, the Naval War Staff discussed the Norwegian project with Hitler - I am not going to read from that document, your Honour - at a meeting which the defendants Keitel and Jodl also attended. In the meantime Raeder was in touch with the defendant Rosenberg on the possibilities of using Quisling; and Major Elwyn Jones very properly pointed out to the Tribunal the close link between the Service Chiefs and the Nazi politicians. As a result of all this, on Hitler's instructions, Keitel issued an O.K.W. directive on 27th January, 1940, stating that Hitler had commissioned him to undertake charge of preparations for the Norway operation, to which he then gave the code name "Weseruebung."

On 1st March, 1940, Hitler issued the directive setting forth the general plan for the invasion of Norway and Denmark. That is Document C-174, Exhibit GB-89, which Major Elwyn Jones put in the record. The directive was initialled by Admiral Kurt Fricke, who at that time was head of the Operations Division of the Naval War Staff and who at the end Of 1941 became Chief of the Naval War Staff and in that capacity is a member of the group as defined in the Indictment. So, as these documents make clear, the plan to invade Norway and Denmark was not conceived in Nazi Party circles or forced on the military leaders; on the contrary, it was conceived in the Naval part of the General Staff and High Command Group, and Hitler was persuaded to take the idea up. Treaties and neutrality meant just as little to the General Staff and High Command Group as to the Nazis.

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