Franz von Papen: (Ribbentrop was) a man of markedly elegant appearance, always impeccably dressed, who spoke perfect English and French. Unfortunately, these qualities did not suffice to make him a statesman. Normally, a man of his education and background could have been expected to be a success in high office. In Ribbentrop's case there were insurmountable obstacles. He was immensely industrious, but devoid of intelligence; having an incurable inferiority complex, his social qualities never matured as they should have done.
French ambassador to Berlin Robert Coulondre: Hitler launches into monologues when carried away by passion, but Herr von Ribbentrop does so when he is ice-cold. It is futile to challenge his statements; he hears you just as little as his cold, empty, moon-like eyes see you. Always speaking down to his interlocutor, always striking a pose, he delivers his well-prepared speech in a cutting voice; the rest no longer interests him; there is nothing for you to do but withdraw. There is nothing human about this German, who incidentally is good-looking, except the baser instincts.
Mussolini: Ribbentrop belongs to the category of Germans who are a disaster for their country. He talks about making war right and left, without naming an enemy or defining an objective.
April 30, 1893: Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim Ribbentrop (later Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop) is born in Wesel (now in North Rhine-Westphalia); the son of a German Army officer. As a young man, he will live at various times in Grenoble, France, and London.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I came from an old family of soldiers. My mother came from the country. I went to school at Kassel and Metz in Alsace-Lorraine. There, in Alsace-Lorraine, I had my first contact with the domain of French culture; and at that time we learned to love that country dearly. In 1908 my father resigned from active military service. The reason was that there were differences at that time connected with the person of the Kaiser. My father already had a strong interest in foreign politics and also social interests, and I had a great veneration for him. At that time we moved to Switzerland and after living there for about one year I went to London as a young man, and there, for about one year, I studied, mainly languages. It was then that I had my first impression of London and of the greatness of the British Empire. Note: As always, these excerpts from trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift responsibility from charges that, should they be found guilty, can be punishable by death.
1910: Young Ribbentrop crosses the Atlantic, eventually settling in Ottawa, Canada where he works as a timekeeper on the reconstruction of the Quebec Bridge and the Canadian Pacific Railroad. This is followed by employment as a journalist in New York City and Boston. He will eventually become the owner of a small business, importing German wine and champagne.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After about one year, in 1910, I went to Canada. Originally I wanted to go to the German colonies, but then I went to America instead. I wanted to see the world. I remained in Canada for several years, approximately two years as a worker, a plate layer on the railroad, and later on I turned to the bank and building trade.
August 15, 1914: Following the outbreak of World War One, the patriotic Ribbentrop leaves his business in Canada and obtains passage on the Holland-America ship The Potsdam, leaving Hoboken, New Jersey for Rotterdam. As soon as he finally reaches Germany, he enlists in the 125th Regiment of the Hussars. Ribbentrop will reach the rank of first lieutenant, and be awarded the Iron Cross.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: In 1914 the first World War caught me in Canada. Like all Germans at the time we had only one thought--"Every man is needed at home and how can we help the homeland?" Then I traveled, to New York, and finally in September 1914, after some difficulties, I arrived in Germany. After serving at the front, for approximately 4 years, and after I had been wounded, I was sent to Constantinople, to Turkey, where I witnessed the collapse of Germany in the first World War. Then I had my first impression of the dreadful consequences of a lost war. The Ambassador at that time, Count Bernstorff, and the later Ambassador, Dr. Dieckhoff, were the representatives of the Reich in Turkey. They were summoned to Berlin in order to take advantage of Count Bernstorff's connections with President Wilson and to see--it was the hope of all of us--that on the strength of these Points perhaps a peace could be achieved and with it reconciliation’s.
1916: After being seriously wounded, Ribbentrop is stationed in Istanbul as a staff officer. During his time in Turkey, Ribbentrop will befriend another officer, Franz von Papen.
October 21, 1918: From a proclamation of the German-Austrian deputies after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy:
The German-Austrian State claims the territorial jurisdiction over the entire territory of German settlement areas, especially in the Sudetenland. The German-Austrian State will fight any annexation by other nations of territories which are inhabited by German farmers, workers, and citizens.November 12, 1918: From a resolution passed one day after the Armistice by the Provisional Austrian National Assembly:
German-Austria is a democratic republic. All public authorities are installed by the people. German-Austria is a part of the German Republic." The leader of the biggest national party of the time, Dr. Karl Renner, explains the reasons for this resolution: "Our great people is in distress and misery, the people whose pride it has always been to be called the people of poets and thinkers, our German people of humanism, our German people which loves all mankind is deeply bowed in misery. But it is just in this hour in which it would be so easy and convenient and perhaps also tempting to settle one's account separately and perhaps to snatch advantages from the enemy's ruse, in this hour our people in all provinces wish to proclaim: We are one family and one people living under a common fate.March 1919: Ribbentrop joins the War Ministry and will eventually be a member of the German delegation that attends the Paris Peace Conference.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After some difficulties, in March 1919, I came to Berlin and I became adjutant of the then General Von Seeckt for the peace delegation at Versailles. Subsequently, when the Treaty of Versailles came, I read that document in one night and it was my impression that no government in the world could possibly sign such a document. That was my first impression of foreign policy at home. In 1919 I resigned from the Armed Forces as a first lieutenant, and I turned to the profession of a businessman. Through these business contacts, I came to know particularly England and France rather intimately during the following years. Several contacts with politicians were already established at that time. I tried to help my own country by voicing my views against Versailles. At first it was very difficult but already in the years 1919, 1920, and 1921, I found a certain amount of understanding in those countries, in my own modest way. Then, it was approximately since the years 1929 or 1930, I saw that Germany after seeming prosperity during the years 1926, 1927, and 1928 was exposed to a sudden economic upheaval and that matters went downhill very fast.
September 6, 1919: From a speech by Prelate Hauser, President of the Austrian Parliament, discussing reasons to accept the harsh conditions of the Peace Treaty of St. Germain:
The National Assembly has no choice. Country and people need lasting peace which will open the world to them again morally and economically and which can once again procure work for the masses of our people at home and abroad...It also has no other choice because our country depends on the big powers for its supply of food, coal, and industrial raw materials as well as in the re-establishment of its credit and its currency.September 10, 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye: The new Republic of Austria signs the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye under tremendous pressure from the victorious Allies. The Austrian equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles, among its provisions are; the new republic's initial self-chosen name of German Austria (Deutschoesterreich) has to be changed to Austria; the new Republic of Austria, consisting of most of the German-speaking Alpine part of the former Austrian Empire, must recognize the independence of the newly-formed states of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs; must submit to "war reparations"; must refrain from directly or indirectly compromising its independence, which means that Austria can not enter into political or economic union with Germany without the agreement of the council of the League of Nations; the Austrian Army is limited to a force of 30,000 volunteers. Note: The forcible incorporation of the German-speaking population of the border territories of the Sudetenland into the artificially-created state of Czechoslovakia will lead to the Munich Conference and become one of the causal factors of WW2.
January 10, 1920: Entry into force of the Versailles Peace Treaty and of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I have already mentioned the disappointment I experienced as a young officer through personal contacts, in particular, with the German Ambassador at that time, Dieckhoff, who is a distant relative of mine or relative by marriage, the disappointment which in fact we all experienced in the German Armed Forces, among the German people, and in government circles naturally even more--that these Points of Wilson had been so quickly abandoned. I do not propose to make a propaganda speech here. I merely want to represent the facts soberly as I experienced them at the time. There is no doubt that the defenselessness of the German people at that time led to the fact that unfortunately a tendency was maintained among our enemies not toward conciliation but toward hatred or revenge. I am convinced that this was certainly not the intention of Wilson, at that time President of the United States, and I myself believe that in later years, he suffered because of it. At any rate that was my first contact with German politics. This Versailles now became. ....
But it is known that even the severe stipulations of Versailles as we experienced them, from the closest personal observation, were not adhered to as is well known. That, too, is perhaps a consequence, an after-effect of a war, in which men drifted in a certain direction and just could not or would not adhere to certain things. It is known that the stipulations of Versailles were not observed then either territorially speaking or in other very important points. May I mention that one of the most important questions--territorial questions--at that time was Upper Silesia and particularly Memel, that small territory. The events which took place made a deep impression on me personally. Upper Silesia particularly, because I had many personal ties there,and because none of us could understand that even those severe stipulations of Versailles were not observed. It is a question of minorities which also played a very important part. Later I shall have to refer to this point more in detail, particularly in connection with the Polish crisis. But light from the beginning, German minorities, as is known, suffered very hard times. At that time it was again Upper Silesia particularly, and those territories which were involved and suffering under that problem, under that treatment. Further, the question of disarmament was naturally one of the most important points of Versailles.
July 5, 1920: Ribbentrop weds Anna Elisabeth Henkell, known as "Annelies" to her friends; the daughter of wealthy champagne producer Otto Henkell and his wife Katharina "Kaethe" Michel from Wiesbaden. Children: Rudolf--May 11, 1921, Bettina--July 20, 1922, Ursula--Dezember 29, 1932, Adolf--September 2, 1935, Barthold--December 19, 1940.
December 15, 1920: Admission of Austria to the League of Nations.
April 24, 1921: In a plebiscite in the Tyrol, 145,302 vote for the Anschluss, 1,805 against.
May 18, 1921: In a plebiscite in the district of Salzburg, 98,546 vote for the Anschluss with 877 votes against.
September 2, 1921: The Permanent Court of International Justice comes into force.
April 28, 1925: Field Marshal von Hindenburg is elected President of the Reich on the death of Friedrich Ebert.
May 15, 1925 Gekaufter Aristokratischer Ausweis: Ribbentrop persuades his aunt Gertrud von Ribbentrop--whose late husband had been knighted--to adopt him, allowing him to add the aristocratic "von" to his name. In return for this rung on the social ladder, Ribbentrop is to make an established number of cash payments to his aunt. When he defaults on these payments, Aunt Gertrud sues, winning a full award.
September 8, 1926: Admission of Germany to the League of Nations. Germany is made a permanent Member of the Council.
March 29, 1930: Heinrich Bruening becomes the twelfth Chancellor of the Weimar Republic.
September 26, 1931: The Assembly of the League of Nations adopts a General Convention to improve the Means of Preventing War.
February 2, 1932: The two-year Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments opens in Geneva.
March 13, 1932: Hitler receives 30.1% of the vote in the Presidential elections: 11,339,446 votes. Hindenburg fails to win a majority. Goebbels writes in his diary: "We’re beaten; terrible outlook. Party circles badly depressed and dejected." A runoff election is scheduled for 19 April.
April 13, 1932: The SA and SS are banned by Chancellor Bruening after contingency plans for a Nazi coup are discovered.
April 19, 1932: Hindenburg is elected Reich President with 53.0 percent of the vote. Hitler's percentage improves from 30.1 to 36.8 percent of the electorate.
May 1, 1932 Dann ich Betrachtet: Ribbentrop joins the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP): Member Number 1,199,927. He quickly moves up the hierarchy.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: During the year 1931 and 1932, one noticed as a business man, which I was at the time, that in practice the consequences of Versailles were such that German economic life was becoming more and more prostrate. Then I looked around. At that time, I was closely attached to the German People's Party and I saw how the parties became always more and more numerous in Germany. I remember that in the end we had something like 30 parties or more in Germany, that unemployment was growing steadily, and that the government was losing the confidence of the people more and more. From these years I clearly recollect the efforts made by the then Chancellor Bruning, which were doubtlessly meant sincerely and honestly but which nevertheless had no success. Other governments came, that is well known. They, too, had no success.
The export trade in Germany no longer paid for itself. The gold reserves of the Reichsbank dwindled, there was tax evasion, and no confidence at all in the measures introduced by the government. That, roughly, was the picture which I saw in Germany in the year 1930 and 1931. I saw then how strikes increased, how discontented the people were, and how more and more demonstrations took place on the streets and conditions became more and more chaotic...it was the denial of equality in all these spheres, the denial of equal rights, which made me decide that year to take a greater part in politics.
I would like to say here quite openly that at that time I often talked to French and British friends, and of course it was already a well-known fact, even then--after 1930 the NSDAP received over 100 seats in the Reichstag--that here the natural will of the German people broke through to resist this treatment, which after all meant nothing more than that they wanted to live. At the time these friends of mine spoke to me about Adolf Hitler, whom I did not know at the time, they asked me, 'What sort of a man is Adolf Hitler? What will come of it? What is it?' I said to them frankly at that time, "Give Germany a chance and you will not have Adolf Hitler. Do not give her a chance, and Adolf Hitler will come into power." That was approximately in 1930 or 1931. Germany was not given the chance, so on 30 January 1933 he came--the National Socialists seized power.
May 31, 1932: German President Paul von Hindenburg appoints Franz von Papen the thirteenth Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, to replace Heinrich Bruening, the leader of Papen's own party. Papen has practically no support in the Reichstag except from the DNVP (Conservative German National People's Party).
June 1932: The German government of von Papen lifts Bruening’s ban on the SA and SS.
June 16, 1932 Lausanne Konferenz: The Lausanne conference begins as representatives from Great Britain, Germany, and France meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. Also: Reich Chancellor von Papen places a 1 month ban on the wearing of uniforms to political demonstrations.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I must say that the numerous business trips which in the years of 1920 to 1932 took me abroad proved to me how endlessly difficult it was or would have to be under the system which then existed to bring about a revision of the Versailles Treaty by means of negotiations. In spite of that, I felt how from year to year the circles grew in England and France which were convinced that somehow Germany would have to be helped.
During those years, I established many contacts with men of the business world, of public life, of art and science, particularly in universities in England and France. I learned thereby to understand the attitude of the English and the French. I want to say now that even shortly after Versailles it was my conviction that a change of that treaty could be carried out only through an understanding with France and Britain. I also believed that only in this way could the international situation be improved and the very considerable causes of conflict existing everywhere as consequences of the first World War be removed. It was clear, therefore, that only by means of an understanding with the Western Powers, with England and France, would a revision of Versailles be possible.
Even then, I had the distinct feeling that only through such an understanding could a permanent peace in Europe really be preserved. We young officers had experienced too much at that time. And I am thinking of the Free Corps men in Silesia and all those things in the Baltic, et cetera. I should like to add, and say it quite openly, that right from the beginning, from the first day in which I saw and read the Versailles Treaty, I, as a German, felt it to be my duty to oppose it and to try to do everything so that a better treaty could take its place. It was precisely Hitler's opposition to Versailles that first brought me together with him and the National Socialist Party.
July 9, 1932 Lausanne Konferenz: The Lausanne conference ends, resulting in an agreement to suspend World War I reparations payments imposed on the defeated countries by the Treaty of Versailles.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: He (Hitler) saw in France an enemy of Germany because of the entire policy which France had pursued with regard to Germany since the end of World War I, and especially because of the position which she took on questions of equality of rights. This attitude of Hitler's found expression at the time in his book Mein Kampf. I knew France well, since for a number of years I had had connections there. At that time I told the Fuehrer a great deal about France. It interested him, and I noticed that he showed an increasing interest in French matters in the year 1933. Then I brought him together with a number of Frenchmen, and I believe some of these visits, and perhaps also some of my descriptions of the attitude taken by many Frenchmen, and all of French culture. ....
I acquainted the Fuehrer with an argument which sprang from my deepest conviction and my years of experience. It was a great wish of the Fuehrer, as is well known, to come to a definitive friendship and agreement with England. At first the Fuehrer treated this idea as something apart from Franco-German politics. I believe that at that time I succeeded in convincing the Fuehrer that an understanding with England would be possible only by way of an understanding with France as well. That made, as I still remember very clearly from some of our conversations, a strong impression on him. He told me then that I should continue this purely personal course of mine for bringing about an understanding between Germany and France and that I should continue to report to him about these things.
June-July 1932: At least 82 people are killed and 400 wounded in nearly 500 pitched battles between Nazis and Communists in Prussia alone.
July, 1932: From a recorded campaign speech by Hitler :
...Destiny has given Germany's present rulers more than thirteen years to prove themselves and to show what they can do. They themselves pronounce the most damning judgment on themselves, for by the very nature of their propaganda today they acknowledge the failure of their efforts. Once they wanted to govern Germany better than it had been governed in the past, and all they can say about their art of governing is that Germany and the German People are not yet dead...July 30, 1932: German Chancellor von Papen:
The world does not realize that Germany is confronted with a civil war. The world did not help us to overcome our difficulties at Lausanne, and it is unbearable that 14 years after the end of the war there is no equality of rights for us.July 31, 1932: The Nazi Party wins big in Reichstag elections, making it Germany’s largest political party; however, they still fall far short of a majority in the 608-member body. Goering, with backing from the Catholic Center Party, assumes the Presidency of the Reichstag.
August 13, 1932: Hindenburg rejects Hitler's demand to be appointed Chancellor. From minutes of the meeting kept by Otto Meissner, the Chief of the Presidential Chancellery:
Herr Hitler declared that, for reasons which he had explained in detail to the Reich President that morning, his taking any part in cooperation with the existing government was out of the question. Considering the importance of the National Socialist movement, he must demand the full and complete leadership of the government and state for himself and his party.August 13, 1932: Ribbentrop meets Hitler for the first time.
The Reich President in reply said firmly that he must answer this demand with a clear, unyielding "No." He could not justify before God, before his conscience, or before the Fatherland the transfer of the whole authority of government to a single party, especially to a party that was biased against people who had different views from their own. There were a number of other reasons against it, upon which he did not wish to enlarge in detail, such as fear of increased unrest, the effect on foreign countries, etc. Herr Hitler repeated that any other solution was unacceptable to him. To this the Reich President replied: "So you will go into opposition?" Hitler: "I have now no alternative."
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I saw Adolf Hitler for the first time on 13 August 1932 at the Berghof. Since about 1930 or 1931 I had known Count Helldorf in Berlin, whose name as a National Socialist is known. He was a regimental comrade of mine in my squadron, and we went through 4 years of war together. Through him I became acquainted with National Socialism in Berlin for the first time. I had asked him at that time to arrange a meeting with Hitler for me. He did so that time, as far as I remember, through the mediation of Herr Rohm. I visited Adolf Hitler and had a long discussion with him at that time, that is to say, Adolf Hitler explained his ideas on the situation in the summer of 1932 to me.
I then saw him again in 1933--that has already been described here by Party Member Goering--at my house at Dahlem which I placed at their disposal so that I, on my part, should do everything possible to create a national front. Adolf Hitler made a considerable impression on me even then. I noticed particularly his blue eyes in his generally dark appearance, and then, perhaps as outstanding, his detached, I should say reserved--not unapproachable, but reserved--nature, and the manner in which he expressed his thoughts. These thoughts and statements always had something final and definite about them, and they appeared to come from his innermost self. I had the impression that I was facing a man who knew what he wanted and who had an unshakable will and who was a very strong personality.
I can summarize by saying that I left that meeting with Hitler convinced that this man, if anyone, could save Germany from these great difficulties and that distress which existed at the time. I need not go further into detail about the events of that January. But I would like to tell about one episode which happened in my house in Dahlem when the question arose whether Hitler was to become Reich Chancellor or not. I know that at that time, I believe, he was offered the Vice Chancellorship and I heard with what enormous strength and conviction--if you like, also brutality and hardness--he could state his opinion when he believed that obstacles might appear which could lead to the rehabilitation and rescue of his people.
September 14, 1932: Germany notifies the President of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of its decision to withdraw from the Conference.
November 6, 1932: New elections in Germany fail to break a parliamentary deadlock. The National Socialists lose 34 seats, but not enough to crowd them out of their key position, for again the formation of a majority in the Reichstag from the Socialists to the extreme Right is possible only with Hitler; without him, no majority.
November 1932: Thirty-nine prominent German industrialists and businessmen petition Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as his new Chancellor.
December 3, 1932: General von Schleicher is appointed the fourteenth Chancellor of Germany under the Weimar Republic.
January 1, 1933: Hypnotist Erik Hanussen predicts Hitler will come to power on January 30, 1933. His prediction will be widely ridiculed in the German press.
January 15, 1933: Election in the small state of Lippe: the NSDAP gains 6,000 votes over the preceding November total but is still 3,000 votes short of its July number. This small success is spun into a triumph by skillful propaganda.
January 22, 1933: Ribbentrop, Papen, Goering, Meissner, and Oskar von Hindenburg (the President's son) hold discussions. Ribbentrop plays an important if not strikingly obvious part in the bringing about of the decisive meetings between the representatives of the President of the Reich and the heads of the NSDAP, who have prepared for the entry of the Nazis into power. These meetings take place in Ribbentrop's home in Berlin Dahlen.
January 28, 1933: Chancellor von Schleicher demands that President Hindenburg declare the Reichstag dissolved and grant him full powers. The President refuses and von Schleicher resigns as Chancellor. At noon, the Reich President instructs Papen to begin negotiations for the formation of a new government.
January 29, 1933: Hitler, enjoying coffee and cakes with some of his aides at the Kaiserhof, is joined by Goering who announces triumphantly that Hitler will be named Chancellor on the morrow. (Shirer)
January 30, 1933: Hitler is appointed as Chancellor. Ribbentrop, while given no position in the cabinet, becomes Hitler's unofficial advisor on foreign affairs.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I acquainted the Fuehrer with an argument which sprang from my deepest conviction and my years of experience. It was a great wish of the Fuehrer, as is well known, to come to a definitive friendship and agreement with England. At first the Fuehrer treated this idea as something apart from Franco-German politics. I believe that at that time I succeeded in convincing the Fuehrer that an understanding with England would be possible only by way of an understanding with France as well. That made, as I still remember very clearly from some of our conversations, a strong impression on him. He told me then that I should continue this purely personal course of mine for bringing about an understanding between Germany and France and that I should continue to report to him about these things.
January 30, 1933: From a telegram to Hindenburg from Ludendorff:
By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you that this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action.February 1, 1933: German Chancellor Adolf Hitler issues his first proclamation:
...We recognize no classes, we see only the German people, millions of peasants, bourgeois, and workers who will either overcome together the difficulties of these times or be overcome by them. We are firmly resolved and we have taken our oath. Since the present Reichstag is incapable of lending support to this work, we ask the German people whom we represent to perform the task themselves. Reichspraesident von Hindenburg has called upon us to bring about the revival of the German nation.February 1, 1933: Hitler obtains a decree from Hindenburg ordering dissolution of the Reichstag. New elections are called for March 5, 1933.
Unity is our tool. Therefore we now appeal to the German people to support this reconciliation. The National Government wishes to work and it will work. It did not ruin the German nation for fourteen years, but now it will lead the nation back to health. It is determined to make well in four years the ills of fourteen years. But the National Government cannot make the work of reconstruction dependent upon the approval of those who wrought destruction. The Marxist parties and their lackeys have had fourteen years to show what they can do. The result is a heap of ruins. Now, people of Germany, give us four years and then pass judgement...
February 2, 1933: The Geneva Disarmament Conference resumes.
February 3, 1933: Hitler, addressing a group of German generals gathered at the Hammerstein-Equord house, proclaims an offensive against the Communists and Pacifists; announces that the Reichswehr will remain independent of the political parties; promises complete rearmament.
February 4, 1933: Hitler announces a new rule "for the protection of the German people" which allows the Nazis to forbid meetings of other political groups. He authorizes the Government to ban newspapers and rallies on the pretext that they are distributing false news to harm the State or defame the authorities and civil service.
February 15, 1933: Hitler speaks in Stuttgart:
...In fourteen years the system which has now been overthrown has piled mistake upon mistake, illusion upon illusion. And that is also true for our foreign policy. Only since the time when through our Movement the world has been shown that a new Germany of resolution and resistance is arising--only since then are we once more regarded with other eyes. If today in Geneva a people fights side by side with us for the freedom of Europe, it is we who have first formed this friendship and not the representatives of the former system...February 24, 1933: The Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet), the SA and SS are officially granted auxiliary police status.
February 26, 1933: During a seance in Berlin, Eric Hanussen predicts that a great fire will soon strike a large building in the Capital. An eagle, he claims, will rise from the smoke and flames.
February 27, 1933: A huge fire destroys the Reichstag, the seat of German government.
February 28, 1933: The Prussian government announces that it has found communist publications stating that "Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down... . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups.... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war.... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war."
February 28, 1933 Ausser den Gesetzlichen Grenzen: Hindenburg signs the "Decree for the Protection of the People and the State," which has been quickly drafted by Hitler and his aides. This emergency decree suspends the civil liberties granted by the Weimar Constitution by allowing the Nazis to put their political opponents in prison and establish concentration camps. Hermann Goering orders the arrest of 4,000 Communist functionaries. An excerpt from the Decree:
Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscation’s as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.March 5, 1933: The last multiparty general election for the Reichstag draws 88.8% of eligible voters to the polls. The Combat Front coalition formed by the NSDAP and Hugenberg’s German National Peoples Party wins a 51.9% majority but falls short of the 2/3rds majority needed to amend the constitution.
March 7, 1933: Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss assumes dictatorial powers.
March 8, 1933 Millimetternich: Dollfuss suspends freedom of the press in Austria.
March 21, 1933 Potsdam Day: From the tomb of Frederick the Great at Potsdam, Hitler carefully stages an elaborate ceremonial opening of the first Reichstag of the Third Reich.
March 22, 1933: Dachau concentration camp opens near Munich, soon to be followed by Ravensbrück for women, Sachsenhausen near Berlin in northern Germany, and Buchenwald near Weimar in central Germany.
March 23 1933 Ermoeglichende Tat: In the evening session of the Reichstag, Monsignor Kaas announces that the Catholic Center Party, despite some certain misgivings, will vote for the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act is then passed by the Reichstag, transferring the power of legislation from the Reichstag to the cabinet. The Enabling Act gives Hitler the power to pass his own laws, independent of the President or anyone else, making Hitler more powerful than any Kaiser in German History.
March 23 1933: Hitler addresses the Reichstag:
...For years Germany has been waiting in vain for the fulfillment of the promise of disarmament made to her by the others. It is the sincere desire of the national Government to be able to refrain from increasing our army and our weapons, insofar as the rest of the world is now also ready to fulfill its obligations in the matter of radical disarmament...April 1, 1933: A week into Hitler's dictatorship of Germany, Goebbels orders a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, offices and department stores.
April 7, 1933: The Nazi Civil Service Act is passed. It's a law that provides that all civil servants must be trustworthy as defined by Nazi standards and also must meet the Nazi racial requirements.
July 31, 1933: Six months after the Nazis assumption of power, the first concentration camps are full; 26,789 political prisoners are now in detention.
August 19, 1933: Mussolini meets with Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss at the Italian-Austrian border.
August 1933: After exchanging "Secret Letters" with Mussolini, Italy on this day guarantees Austria's independence. To Mussolini, Austria forms a desirable buffer zone against Nazi Germany that is in Italy's interest to maintain. Dollfuss, for his part, stresses the similarity of Hitler's and Stalin's regime, and is convinced that Austro-fascism under his reign and Italio-fascism under Mussolini can counter both national socialism and communism in Europe.
September 1933: Genetic Health Courts now being organized through out Germany will eventually order the sterilization of almost 400,000 German citizens: 32,268 during 1934; 73,174 in 1935; 63,547 in 1936. Note: In the U.S. 60,166 people were sterilized from 1907-1958.
September 12, 1933: Voting in a referendum, 89.9% of the voters approve Hitler's withdrawal from the League of Nations. This first one party election for the Reichstag sees 92.1% of the voters cast ballots. Also: Nazi Minister of the Interior Frick receives a letter of protest concerning the "Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring" from Cardinal Bertram.
October 11, 1933: US Ambassador Dodd criticizes the Nazi regime during an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Berlin.
October 14, 1933: Germany withdraws from the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments.
October 14, 1933: Hitler addresses the Reich by radio:
...The former German governments confidently joined the League of Nations hoping to find there a forum where they could achieve a just resolution of conflicting national interests, and above all genuine reconciliation with their former enemies. This presupposed, however, the ultimate recognition of equal rights for the German nation. Their participation in the disarmament conference was based on the same assumption. Demotion to the status of membership without equal rights in an institution or conference of this nature is an intolerable humiliation for a nation of 65 million people which values its honor and for a government which attaches no less importance to its honor! The German People more than fulfilled its obligation to disarm. It should now be the turn of the nations who are armed to show no less willingness to fulfill the same obligations. In taking part in this conference the German Government's goal is not to negotiate for a few canons or machine guns for the German People, but to work towards universal world peace...October 21, 1933: Germany gives notice of withdrawal from the League of Nations.
December 23, 1933: Pope Pius XI condemns the Nazi sterilization program.
January 30, 1934: Hitler addresses the Reichstag:
...there are those political birds of passage who constantly appear wherever it is harvest time. These spineless individuals seize on any opportunity to join a successful movement and, either to forestall questions about their origins and their past activities, or else by way of response, they "protest too much" and indulge in super-correct behavior. The reason why they are dangerous is that they, whilst posing as supporters of the new regime, seek to pursue purely personal and selfish interests. In so doing they become a real burden to a movement for whose sake millions of decent people have for years made enormous sacrifices, without the thought even crossing their minds they might one day be rewarded for the suffering and deprivation which they accepted...From The Face Of The Third Reich by Joachim C Fest: The circumstances in which he found his way to Hitler in the early 1930s are revealing in themselves. In response to a chance remark by Hitler that he could not follow the foreign press because of his ignorance of foreign languages, Ribbentrop, the wine and spirits importer was recommended to him as a reader. Ribbentrop not only had a good knowledge of languages but had also been the author of a political newsletter which was sent to business contacts at home and abroad and which took a nationalist and anti-Bolshevik line. Hitler accepted him, influenced not least by his outward appearance as a man of the world. This was the start of a rapid rise in a career of astounding incompetence.
For Ribbentrop, who shared Hitler's habit of indulging in great visions expressed in endless monologues, it led into those realms where the megalomaniac word loses its innocence and unexpectedly influences the destinies of nations; where self-assertive coarseness brings the reputation, not of a swashbuckler among neighbors and boon companions, but of a disturber of the peace before the bar of history. Ribbentrop evidently never grasped the difference between these two roles and confronted it during the Nuremberg trial with that same strained mien which a lifelong intellectual helplessness had forced him to adopt. He was condemned as the pot-house politician whose bombastic utterances were suddenly fulfilled as by a malevolent fairy, whose words, dictated by a hunger for self-importance, suddenly became flesh and, even more, blood.
April 24, 1934: Ribbentrop is appointed delegate of the Reich Government on matters of disarmament.
May 1, 1934: A new Austrian constitution is approved that makes all the decrees Dollfuss has already passed since March 1933 "legal." The new constitution sweeps away the last remains of democracy.
April 20, 1935: Ribbentrop is promoted to ObergruppenFuehrer in the SS.
June 17, 1934: Vice-Chancellor von Papen speaks in Marburg:
Great men are not made by propaganda, but rather grow through their deeds and are recognized by history. Even Byzantinism cannot make us believe that these laws do not exist...But we must have no illusions regarding the biological and psychological limits of education. Coercion, too, ends at the will for self-expression of the true personality. Reactions to coercion are dangerous. As an old soldier I know that the most rigid discipline must be balanced by certain liberties. Even the good soldier who submitted willingly to unconditional authority counted his days of service, because the need for freedom is rooted in human nature. The application of military discipline to the whole life of a people must remain within limits compatible with human nature... (http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/imt/tgmwc/ftp.py?imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-16/tgmwc-16-156.05)From the sworn affidavit of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: Plans for annexation of Austria were a part of the Nazi program from the beginning. Italian opposition after the murder of Dollfuss temporarily forced a more careful approach to this problem, but the application of sanctions against Italy by the League, plus the rapid increase of German military strength, made safer the resumption of the Austrian program. When Goering visited Rome early in 1937 he declared that union of Austria and Germany was inevitable and could be expected sooner or later. Mussolini, hearing these words in German, remained silent, and protested only mildly when I translated them into French. The consummation of the Anschluss was essentially a Party matter, in which Von Papen's role was to preserve smooth diplomatic relations on the surface while the Party used more devious ways of preparing conditions for the expected move. The speech delivered by Papen on 18 Feb. 1938, following the Berchtesgaden meeting, interpreted the Berchtesgaden agreement as the first step towards the establishment of a Central European Commonwealth under the leadership of Germany. This was generally recognized in the Foreign Office as a clear prophecy of a Greater Germany which would embrace Austria.
June 18, 1935: German Minister Plenipotentiary at Large Ribbentrop negotiates the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (AGNA). Ribbentrop, who possesses a certain elan and sense of audacity, issues Sir John Simon an ultimatum. He informs Simon that if Germany's terms are not accepted in their entirety, the German delegation will go home. Simon is angry with this demand and walks out of the talks. Much to everyone's surprise, the next day, the British accept Ribbentrop's demands and the AGNA is signed in London on this day. This diplomatic victory does much to increase Ribbentrop's prestige with Hitler.
June 30, 1934 Blutbereinigung: The "Blood Purge" (Night of the Long Knives) occurs.
July 13, 1934: Hitler speaks before the Reichstag:
...I have for this reason always insisted that in their conduct and behavior higher demands should be made of the National Socialist leaders that of the rest of the people (volksgenossen). He who desires to receive higher respect than others must meet this demand by a higher achievement. The most elementary demand that can be made of him is that in is life he should not give a shameful example to those about him. I do not desire therefore that National Socialist guilty of such offenses should be judged and punished more leniently that are other fellow countrymen of theirs; rather, I expect that a leader who forgets himself in this way should be punished with greater rigor...July 25, 1934: Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss is murdered by eight Austrian Nazis. A coup d'état fails, however, and order is soon restored. Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg becomes Austria's new federal chancellor. At the age of 36, he is the youngest person to have ever held the position.
From the sworn affidavit of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: The attempted Putsch in Austria and the murder of Dollfuss on 25 July 1934 seriously disturbed the career personnel of the Foreign Office, because these events discredited Germany in the eyes of the world. It was common knowledge that the Putsch had been engineered by the Party, and the fact that the attempted Putsch followed so closely on the heels of the blood purge within Germany could not help but suggest the similarity of Nazi methods both in foreign and domestic policy. This concern over the repercussions of the attempted Putsch was soon heightened by a recognition of the fact that these episodes were of influence in leading to the Franco-Soviet Consultative Pact of 5 December 1934, a defensive arrangement, which was not heeded as a warning by the Nazis.
August 2, 1934: Hindenburg dies.
August 19, 1934 Gleichschaltung: The German electorate approves Hitler's merging the two offices of Chancellor and President by 90% of the vote. Hitler is Fuehrer und Reichskanzler.
September 18, 1934: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is admitted into the League of Nations. The Assembly approves the Council's proposal that the Union should be made a permanent Member.
November 8, 1934: Hitler speaks in Munich:
...let us look back in this new Reich upon that which lies behind us and do so in the most distant future, too, and let us bear in mind one article of faith: We shall be resolved at all times to take action! Willing at all times, if necessary, to die! Never willing to capitulate...January 13, 1935 Saar Volksabstimmung: 90.7 percent of Saar voters cast their ballot in favor of a return to Germany, 0.4 percent vote for union with France.
January 29, 1935: The American Senate refuses to ratify the accession of the United States to the Permanent Court of International justice.
February 1, 1935: Margarete Blank becomes Ribbentrop's personal secretary.
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: I met him (Ribbentrop) at the beginning of November 1934 in Berlin, when he was delegate for disarmament questions. .... On 1 November 1934 I was engaged as secretary in the Ribbentrop office. His personal secretary gave notice and, as her successor did not turn up, Von Ribbentrop asked me whether I was willing to take the post. I said "yes" and became his personal secretary on 1 February 1935. ....
As far as I can judge, Herr Von Ribbentrop always showed the greatest admiration and veneration for Adolf Hitler. To enjoy the Fuehrer's confidence, to justify it by his conduct and work was his chief aim, to which he devoted all his efforts. To achieve this aim no sacrifice was too great. In carrying out the tasks set him by the Fuehrer he showed utter disregard for his own person. When speaking of Hitler to his subordinates he did so with the greatest admiration. Appreciation of his services by the Fuehrer, as for instance the award of the Golden Party Badge of Honor, the recognition of his accomplishments in a Reichstag speech, a letter on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, full of appreciation and praise, meant to him the highest recompense for his unlimited devotion.
...in cases of differences of opinion between himself and the Fuehrer, Herr Von Ribbentrop subordinated his own opinion to that of the Fuehrer. Once a decision had been made by Adolf Hitler there was no more criticism afterwards. Before his subordinates Herr Von Ribbentrop presented the Fuehrer's views as if they were his own. If the Fuehrer expressed his will, it was always equivalent to a military order. .... I attribute it first of all to Ribbentrop's view that the Fuehrer was the only person capable of making the right political decisions.
Secondly, I attribute it to the fact that Herr Von Ribbentrop, as the son of an officer and as a former officer himself, having taken the oath of allegiance to the Fuehrer, felt himself bound in loyalty and considered himself a soldier, so to say, who had to carry out orders given him, and not to criticize or change them.
March 7, 1935: Hitler occupies the Rhineland.
April 20, 1935: Ribbentrop is promoted to OberFuehrer in the SS.
May 1, 1935: Hitler speaks in Berlin:
...What we want lies clear before us: not war and not strife. Just as we have established peace within our own people, so we want nothing else than peace with the world. For we all know that our great work can succeed only in a time of peace. But just as the leadership of the nation in the domestic sphere has never sacrificed its honor in its relations with the German people, so it can never surrender the honor of the German people in its dealings with the world...May 2, 1935: A mutual assistance pact between France and the Soviet Union is signed.
From the sworn affidavit of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: The announcement in March of the establishment of a German Air Force and of the reintroduction of conscription was followed on 2 May 1935 by the conclusion of a mutual assistance pact between France and the Soviet Union. The career personnel of the Foreign Office regarded this as a further very serious warning as to the potential consequences of German foreign policy, but the Nazi leaders only stiffened their attitude towards the Western Powers, declaring that they were not going to be intimidated. At this time, the career officials at least expressed their reservations to the Foreign Minister, Neurath. I do not know whether or not Neurath in turn related these expressions of concern to Hitler.
June 18, 1935: The Anglo-German Naval Agreement, a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the German Reich regulating the size of the Kriegsmarine in relation to the Royal Navy, is signed. This is an enormous victory for Ribbentrop and Hitler, and the first large nail in the coffin he is constructing to contain the remains of Treaty of Versailles.
June 18, 1935: Ribbentrop is promoted to BrigadeFuehrer in the SS.
August, 1935 Wehchaftmachung: Hitler begins rearmament in earnest.
September 15, 1935: Reich Citizenship Law:
The Reichstag has adopted unanimously the following law, which is herewith promulgated:October 21, 1935: Germany ceases to be a Member of the League of Nations.
ARTICLE I A subject of the State is a person who belongs to the protective union of the German Reich, and who, therefore, has particular obligations towards the Reich. The status of the subject is acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Reich and State Law of Citizenship.
ARTICLE II A citizen of the Reich is only that subject who is of German or kindred blood, and who, through his conduct, shows that he is both desirous and fit to serve faithfully the German people and Reich. The right to citizenship is acquired by the granting of Reich citizenship papers. Only the citizen of the Reich enjoys full political rights in accordance with the provisions of the Laws.
ARTICLE III The Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy of the Führer, will issue the necessary legal and administrative decrees for the carrying out and supplementing of this law.
February 21, 1936: Germany proests against the French-Soviet Pact of Mutual Assistance, saying it violates the Covenant of the League of Nations, as well as the Locarno Treaties.
From the sworn affidavit of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: The re-entry of the German military forces into the Rhineland was preceded by Nazi diplomatic preparation in February. A German communiqué of 21 February 1936 reaffirmed that the French-Soviet Pact of Mutual Assistance was incompatible with the Locarno Treaties and the Covenant of the League. On the same day Hitler argued in an interview that no real grounds existed for conflict between Germany and France. Considered against the background statements in Mein Kampf, offensive to France, the circumstances were such as to suggest that the stage was being set for justifying some future act. I do not know how far in advance the march into the Rhineland was decided upon. I personally knew about it and discussed it approximately 2 or 3 weeks before it occurred. Considerable fear had been expressed, particularly in military circles, concerning the risks of this undertaking. Similar fears were felt by many in the Foreign Office. It was common knowledge in the Foreign Office, however, that Neurath was the only person in government circles, consulted by Hitler, who felt confident that the Rhineland could be remilitarized without armed opposition from Britain and France. Neurath's position throughout this period was one which would induce Hitler to have more faith in Neurath than in the general run of 'old school' diplomats whom Hitler tended to hold in disrespect.
March 8, 1936: Germany denounces the treaty of Locarno.
March 20, 1936: Hitler speaks in Hamburg:
I need the German people to demonstrate therewith to the whole world that whatever happens we will not retreat one inch from our equal rights--not because we want to disturb European order, but because we are convinced, contrary to the opinion of temporary and mortal politicians, that permanent order in Europe is possible only on a foundation of peoples enjoying equal rights. The opinion that European order can be founded permanently on the defamation of a people numbering 67000000 is lunacy and madness. They do not need to think that the German nation has rebelled simply because a certain man, Adolf Hitler, stands at its head. No, if I were not there, another would have come sooner or later...July 11, 1936: The Berchtesgaden Agreement regarding the maintenance of Austrian sovereignty is negotiated.
August 1936: Hitler appoints Ribbentrop ambassador to London. His main objective will be to persuade the British government not to get involved in Germany territorial disputes and to work together against the the communist government in the Soviet Union.
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer: Incompetent and lazy, vain as a peacock, arrogant and without humor, Ribbentrop was the worst possible choice for such a post (ambassador to London), as Goering realized. "When I criticized Ribbentrop's qualifications to handle British problems," he later declared, "the Fuehrer pointed out to me that Ribbentrop knew 'Lord So and So' and 'Minister So and So.' To which I replied: Yes, but the difficulty is that they know Ribbentrop."
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: Von Ribbentrop, in the summer of 1936, asked the Fuehrer to send him as ambassador to England. The Naval Agreement of 1935 was only a first step. Subsequently an air pact was contemplated, but, for reasons unknown to me, was not concluded. .... From numerous statements by Ribbentrop I know he was of the opinion that England still adhered to her traditional balance of power policy. In this his ideas were opposed to those of the Fuehrer, who was of the opinion that with the development of Russia a factor had arisen in the East which necessitated a revision of the old balance of power policy--in other words, that England had a vital interest in the steadily increasing strength of Germany. From Ribbentrop's attitude it could be inferred that he expected that in the Polish crisis the English guarantee for Poland would be honored.
January 30, 1937: Hitler:
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 neighbors. 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 recognize and to guarantee the inviolability and neutrality of these territories.February 5, 1937: Ribbentrop presents his credentials to George VI, but the British are outraged when he snaps off a Hitler salute to the King. He also upsets the British government by posting Schutz Staffeinel (SS) guards outside the German Embassy and by flying swastika flags on official embassy cars.
From the IMT testimony of General Erhard Milch: I had gained the impression in England that Von Ribbentrop was not persona grata. I was of the opinion that another man should be sent to England to bring about mutual understanding as to policy, in accordance with the wish so often expressed by Hitler.
May 1, 1937: Hitler's Germany is outraged when an Austrian official in the small hamlet of Pinkafeld hauls down a flag of the German Reich. Hitler speaks in Berlin:
...Life imposes on each generation its own struggle for this life. The prejudices and the irrationalities which centuries have created cannot be completely eradicated in four years. It cannot be accomplished overnight! But we do have the will to do this and with this will we shall never capitulate! And you will concede that we are doing a thorough job. In these four years we have established order...November 19, 1937: Lord Halifax meets with Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden:
From the IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt (German Foreign Office Interpreter): I had been working in the Foreign Office as interpreter for conferences since 1923, and in this capacity I interpreted for all foreign ministers, from Stresemann to Von Ribbentrop, as well as for a number of German Reich Chancellors such as Hermann Muller, Marx, Bruening, Hitler, and for other cabinet members and delegates who represented Germany at international conferences. In other words, I participated as interpreter in all international conferences at which Germany was represented since 1923. ....
First I must say that at the Obersalzberg the conversation with Lord Halifax had taken a very unsatisfactory turn. The two partners could in no way come to an understanding, but in the conversation with Goering the atmosphere improved. The same points were dealt with as at Obersalzberg, the subjects which were in the foreground at the time, namely, the Anschluss, the Sudeten question, and finally the questions of the Polish Corridor and Danzig. At Obersalzberg Hitler had treated these matters rather uncompromisingly, and he had demanded more or less that a solution as he conceived it be accepted by England, whereas Goering in his discussions always attached importance to the fact or always stressed that his idea was a peaceful solution, that is to say, a solution through negotiation, and that everything should be done in this direction, and that he also believed that such a solution could be reached for all three questions if the negotiations were properly conducted.
From the sworn affidavit of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: Whatever success and position I have enjoyed in the Foreign Office I owe to the fact that I made it my business at all times to possess thorough familiarity with the subject matter under discussion, and I endeavored to achieve intimate knowledge of the mentality of Hitler and the other leaders. Throughout the Hitler Regime I constantly endeavored to keep myself apprised as to what was going on in the Foreign Office and in related organizations, and I enjoyed such a position that it was possible to have ready access to key officials and to key personnel in their offices. ....
The general objectives of the Nazi leadership were apparent from the start, namely, the domination of the European Continent, to be achieved, first, by the incorporation of all German-speaking groups in the Reich, and secondly, by territorial expansion under the slogan of "Lebensraum." The execution of these basic objectives, however, seemed to be characterized by improvisation. Each succeeding step apparently was carried out as each new situation arose, but all consistent with the ultimate objectives mentioned above.
February 4, 1938: Ribbentrop is appointed Foreign Minister in place of Von Neurath and is simultaneously made a member of the Secret Cabinet Council (Geheimer Kabinettsrat) established by decree of Hitler.
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: ...although I was his personal secretary for 10 years, I hardly ever saw him in a communicative mood. His time and thoughts were so completely occupied by his work, to which he devoted himself wholeheartedly, that there was no room for anything private. Apart from his wife and children there was nobody with whom Von Ribbentrop was on terms of close friendship. This, however, did not prevent him from having the welfare of his subordinates at heart and from showing them generosity, particularly in time of need. ....
Von Ribbentrop never discussed such differences (with Hitler) with his subordinates, but I do remember distinctly that there were times when such differences surely did exist. At such times the Fuehrer refused for weeks to receive Herr Von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop suffered physically and mentally under such a state of affairs. .... Ribbentrop often used the phrase that he was only the minister responsible for carrying out the Fuehrer's foreign policy. By this he meant that, in formulating his policy, he was not independent. In addition, even in carrying out the directives given him by the Fuehrer, he was to a large extent bound by instructions from Hitler. Thus, for instance, the daily reports of a purely informative nature transmitted by the liaison officer, Ambassador Hewel, between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Fuehrer were often accompanied by requests for the Fuehrer's decision on individual questions and by draft telegrams containing instructions to the heads of missions abroad. ....
The Fuehrer saw in the Foreign Office a body of ossified red-tape civil servants, more or less untouched by National Socialism. I gathered from men of his entourage, that he often made fun of the Foreign Office. He considered it to be the home of reaction and defeatism. .... When taking over the Foreign Office in February 1938, Herr Von Ribbentrop intended to carry out a thorough reshuffle of the entire German diplomatic service. He also intended to make basic changes in the training of young diplomats. These plans did not go beyond the initial stage because of the war. In the course of the war they were taken up again when the, question of new blood for the Foreign Office became acute. Ribbentrop's anxiety to counteract the Fuehrer's animosity towards the Foreign Office led him to fill some of the posts of heads of missions abroad, not with professional diplomats, but with tried SA and SS leaders.
February 11, 1938 From the Diary of Alfred Jodl:
In the evening and on 12 February General K (Keitel) with General Von Reichenau and Sperrle at Obersalzberg. Schuschnigg, together with G. Schmidt are being put under the heaviest political and military pressure. At 2300 hours Schuschnigg signs protocol.February 12, 1938: The Austro-German Crisis begins as Hitler meets with Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I do not consider the Anschluss as an act of aggression...I consider it the realization of the mutual purpose of both nations involved. They had always wished to be together and the government before Adolf Hitler had already striven for it....it was no aggression in that sense, but a union in accordance with the right of self-determination of nations, as laid down in 1919 by the President of the United States, Wilson. The annexation of the Sudetenland was sanctioned by an agreement of four great powers in Munich. ....
I consider, according to the words of the Fuehrer, and I believe he was right, that it was a necessity resulting from Germany's geographical position. This position meant that the remaining part of Czechoslovakia, the part which still existed, could always be used as a kind of aircraft-carrier for attacks against Germany. The Fuehrer therefore considered himself obliged to occupy the territory of Bohemia and Moravia, in order to protect the German Reich against air attack--the air journey from Prague to Berlin took only half an hour. The Fuehrer told me at the time that in view of the fact that United States had declared the entire Western Hemisphere as its particular sphere of interest, that Russia was a powerful country with gigantic territories, and that England embraced the entire globe, Germany would be perfectly justified in considering so small a space as her own sphere of interest.
February 13, 1938 From Jodl's Diary:
In the afternoon General K asks Admiral C (Canaris) and myself to come to his apartment. He tells us that the Fuehrer's order is to the effect that military pressure, by shamming military action, should be kept up until the 15th. Proposals for these deceptive maneuvers are drafted and submitted to the Fuehrer by telephone for approval.February 14, 1938 Jodl's Diary:
At 2:40 o'clock the agreement of the Fuehrer arrives. Canaris went to Munich to the Counter-Intelligence Office VII and initiates the different measures. The effect is quick and strong. In Austria the impression is created that Germany is undertaking serious military preparations.February 20, 1938: In a speech aimed specifically at Czechoslovakia, Chancellor Adolf Hitler proclaims that the German government vows to protect German minorities outside of the Reich.
February 20, 1938: British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigns in protest of Chamberlain's policy of appeasement with Italy and Germany.
March 4, 1938: From a letter from Ribbentrop to Keitel:
I have many doubts about such negotiations (with Czechoslovakia). In case we should discuss with Hungary possible war aims against Czechoslovakia, the danger exists that other parties as well would be informed about this. I would greatly appreciate it if you would notify me briefly whether any commitments were made here in any respect. With best regards and Heil Hitler.March 9, 1938: Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg schedules a plebiscite on the independence of Austria for 13 March. The question is to be: Are you for an independent and social, a Christian, German and united Austria?
March 10, 1938 Jodl's Diary:
By surprise and without consulting his ministers, Schuschnigg ordered a plebiscite for Sunday, 13, March, which should bring strong majority for the Legitimists in the absence of plan or preparation. Fuehrer is determined not to tolerate it. The same night, March 9 to 10, he calls for Goering. General v. Reichenau is called back from Cairo Olympic Committee. General v. Schebert is ordered to come, as well as Minister Glaise Horstenau, who is with the District leader (Gauleiter) Buerckel in the Palatinate. General Keitel communicates the facts at 1:45.March 11, 1938: From Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg's farewell speech:
He drives to the Reichskanzlei at 10 o'clock. I follow at 10:15, according to the wish of General v. Viebahn, to give him the old draft. Prepare case Otto. 1300 hours: General K informs Chief of Operational Staff (and) Admiral Canaris. Ribbentrop is being detained in London. Neurath takes over the Foreign Office. Fuehrer wants to transmit ultimatum to the Austrian Cabinet. A personal letter is dispatched to Mussolini and the reasons are developed which force the Fuehrer to take action. 1830 hours: Mobilization order is given to the Command of the 8th Army (Corps Area 3) 7th and 13th Army Corps; without reserve Army.
The Federal President has commissioned me to inform the Austrian people that we are yielding to force. Since we are at all costs determined not to spill German blood, even in this grave hour, we have given orders to our Armed Forces to withdraw without resistance, if the invasion of Austria is carried out, and to await the decision within the next hours.March 12, 1938 Anschluss: Seyss-Inquart "invites" German troops to occupy Austria.
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: At the time of the German march into Austria, Ambassador Von Ribbentrop, who in February had been appointed Foreign Minister, was in London on his farewell visit. There he heard to his surprise of the Anschluss of Austria. He himself had had a different idea of a solution of the Austria question, namely an economic union.
March 12, 1938 Anschluss: The German Army marches unopposed into Vienna.
March 14, 1938: The Czechoslovak government receives assurances from Hitler's government of the German desire to improve relations between the two states.
March 16-19, 1938: As most of Europe is preoccupied with the German absorption of Austria, the Polish government issues a series of demands to the Lithuanians. Faced with the threat of war, the Lithuanian government immediately agrees to all of the Polish demands, including recognition of the status quo in eastern Europe. The Lithuanian capitulation prevents the crisis from escalating.
March 17, 1938: From a letter--captured in the German Foreign Office files--from Konrad Henlein to Ribbentrop:
Most honored Minister of Foreign Affairs: In our deeply felt joy over the fortunate turn of events in Austria we feel it our duty to express our gratitude to all those who had a share in this new grand achievement of our Fuehrer. I beg you, most honored Minister, to accept accordingly the sincere thanks of the Sudeten Germans herewith. We shall show our appreciation to the Fuehrer by doubled efforts in the service of the Greater German policy. The new situation requires a re-examination of the Sudeten German policy. For this purpose I beg to ask you for the opportunity of a very early personal talk. In view of the necessity of such a clarification I have postponed the nation-wide Party Congress, originally scheduled for 26th and 27th of March 1938, for 4 weeks. I would appreciate it if the Ambassador, Dr. Eisenlohr, and two of my closest associates would be allowed to participate in the requested talks. Heil Hitler. Loyally yours, Konrad Henlein.March 22-25, 1938: German political parties which had joined the Hodza ministry in Czechoslovakia, and the members of the German Activists withdraw from the government. Sudeten Germans are unmoved when Prime Minister Milan Hodza responds by announcing a new Nationality Statute designed to protect Czechoslovakian minorities.
March 25, 1938: Hitler speaks in Koenigsberg:
...I decided not to wait until April 10, but to effect the unification forthwith. That which has happened in those last weeks is the result of the triumph of an idea, a triumph of will, but also a triumph of endurance and tenacity and, above all, it is the result of the miracle of faith: for only faith has availed to move these mountains. I once went forth with faith in the German people and began this vast fight. With faith in me first thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and at last millions have followed after me. With faith in Germany and in this idea, millions of our fellow countrymen in the New Ostmark in the south of our Reich have held their banners high and have remained loyal to the Reich and to the life of the German people. And now I have faith in this 10th of April. I am convinced that on this day for the first time in history in very truth all Germany will be on the march. And on this day I shall be the Leader of the greatest army in the history of the world; for when on this 10th of April I cast my voting paper into the urn, then I shall know that behind me come 50 millions, and they all know only my watchword: One People and one Reich...March 26, 1939: From a letter by Neville Chamberlain to a friend:
I must confess to the most profound distrust of Russia. I have no belief whatever in her ability to maintain an effective offensive, even if she wanted to. And I distrust her motives, which seem to me to have little connection with our ideas of liberty, and to be concerned only with getting everyone else by the ears. Moreover, she is both hated and suspected by many of the smaller States, notably by Poland, Rumania and Finland.March 29, 1938: From captured German Foreign Office notes--initialed by Ribbentrop--of a conference in the Foreign Office in Berlin:
In this conference the gentlemen enumerated in the enclosed list participated (Konrad Henlein; his principal deputy, Karl Hermann Frank; and two others represented the Sudeten German Party. Professor Haushofer, the geopolitician, and SS Obergruppenfuehrer Lorenz represented the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (the Central Office for Racial Germans). The Foreign Office was represented by a delegation of eight. These eight included Ribbentrop, who presided at the meeting and did most of the talking; Von Mackensen; Weizsacker and Minister Eisenlohr from the German Legation at Prague.). The Reich Minister started out by emphasizing the necessity to keep the conference which had been scheduled strictly a secret. He then explained, in view of the directives which the Fuehrer himself had given to Konrad Henlein personally yesterday afternoon, that there were two questions which were of outstanding importance for the conduct of policy of the Sudeten German Party. ....April 10, 1938: In a national plebiscite, Austrian voters register 99.75% in favor of union with Germany: Austria becomes part of the Reich as a new state, divided into seven Gaue (states). Austria withdraws as a member state from the League of Nations because of the republic's incorporation into Germany.
The aim of the negotiations to be carried out by the Sudeten German Party with the Czechoslovakian Government is finally this: To avoid entry into the Government by the extension and gradual specification of the demands to be made. It must be emphasized clearly in the negotiations that the Sudeten German Party alone is the party to the negotiations with the Czechoslovakian Government, not the Reich Cabinet. The Reich Cabinet itself must refuse to appear toward the government in Prague or toward London and Paris as the advocate or pacemaker of the Sudeten German demands. It is a self-evident prerequisite that during the impending discussion with the Czechoslovak Government the Sudeten Germans should be firmly controlled by Konrad Henlein, should maintain quiet and discipline, and should avoid indiscretions. The assurances already given by Konrad Henlein in this connection were satisfactory.
Following these general explanations of the Reichsminister, the demands of the Sudeten German Party from the Czechoslovak Government, as contained in the enclosure, were discussed and approved in principle. For further co-operation, Konrad Henlein was instructed to keep in the closest possible touch with the Reichsminister and the head of the Central Office for Racial Germans, as well as the German Minister in Prague, as the local representative of the Foreign Minister. The task of the German Minister in Prague would be to support the demand of the Sudeten German Party as reasonable--not officially, but in more private talks with the Czechoslovak politicians, without exerting any direct influence on the extent of the demands of the Party.
In conclusion, there was a discussion whether it would be useful if the Sudeten German Party would co-operate with other minorities in Czechoslovakia, especially with the Slovaks. The Foreign Minister decided that the Party should have the discretion to keep a loose contact with other minority groups if the adoption of a parallel course by them might appear appropriate.
August 19, 1938: From a German Foreign Office memorandum:
The Sudeten German Party has been subsidized by the Foreign Office regularly since 1935 with certain amounts, consisting of a monthly payment of 15,000 marks; 12,000 marks of this are transmitted to the Prague Legation for disbursement and 3,000 marks are paid out to the Berlin representation of the Party (Bureau Burger). In the course of the last few months the tasks assigned to the Bureau Burger have increased considerably due to the current negotiations with the Czech Government. The number of pamphlets and maps which are produced and disseminated has risen; the propaganda activity in the press has grown immensely; the expense accounts have increased especially because due to the necessity for continuous good information, the expenses for trips to Prague, London, and Paris (including the financing of travels of Sudeten German deputies and agents) have grown considerably heavier.August 21-26, 1938 Jodl's diary:
Under these conditions the Bureau Burger is no longer able to get along with the monthly allowance of 3,000 marks if it is to do everything required. Therefore Herr Burger has applied to this office for an increase of this amount from 3,000 marks to 5,500 marks monthly. In view of the considerable increase in the business transacted by the bureau, and of the importance which marks the activity of the bureau in regard to the co-operation with the Foreign Office, this desire deserves the strongest support. Herewith submitted to the personnel department with a request for approval. Increase of payments with retroactive effect from 1 August is requested.
Visit to Germany of the Hungarian Regent. Accompanied by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the War Minister Von Raatz. They arrived with the idea that in the course of a great war after a few years, and with the help of German troops, the old State of Hungary can be re-established. They leave with the understanding that we have neither demands from them nor claims against them, but that Germany will not stand for a second provocation by Czechoslovakia, even if it should be tomorrow. If they want to participate at that moment, it is up to them. Germany, however, will never play the role of arbitrator between them and Poland. The Hungarians agree; but they believe that when the issue arises a period of 48 hours would be indispensable to them to find out Yugoslavia's attitude.August 21-26, 1938: A series of the conversations between Hitler and Ribbentrop and a Hungarian Delegation consisting of Horthy, Imredy, and Kanya take place aboard the S. S. Patria. In this conference Ribbentrop inquires about the Hungarian attitude in the event of a German attack on Czechoslovakia and suggests that such an attack would prove to be a good opportunity for Hungary. The Hungarians, with the exception of Horthy, who wish to put the Hungarian intention to participate on record, prove reluctant to commit themselves. Thereupon Hitler emphasizes Ribbentrop's statement and declares that whoever wants to join the meal will have to participate in the cooking as well.
August 23, 1938: From a captured German Foreign Office account signed by Von Weizsaecker:
While in the forenoon of the 23rd of August the Fuehrer and the Regent of Hungary were engaged in a political discussion, the Hungarian Ministers Imredy and Kanya were in conference with Von Ribbentrop. Von Weizsaecker also attended the conference. Von Kanya introduced two subjects for discussion: Point 1, the negotiations between Hungary and the Little Entente; and 2, the Czechoslovakian problem. ....August 23, 1938: From a German Foreign Office note on a conversation with Ambassador Attolico signed "R" for Ribbentrop:
Von Ribbentrop inquired what Hungary's attitude would be if the Fuehrer would carry out his decision to answer a new Czech provocation by force. The reply of the Hungarians presented two kinds of obstacles: The Yugoslavian neutrality must be assured if Hungary marches towards the north and perhaps the east; moreover, the Hungarian rearmament had only been started and one to two more years time for its development should be allowed.
Von Ribbentrop then explained to the Hungarians that the Yugoslavs would not dare to march while they were between the pincers of the Axis Powers. Romania alone would therefore not move. England and France would also remain tranquil. England would not recklessly risk her empire. She knew our newly acquired power. In reference to time, however, for the above-mentioned situation, nothing definite could be predicted since it would depend on Czech provocation. Von Ribbentrop repeated that, '"Whoever desires revision must exploit the good opportunity and participate."
The Hungarian reply thus remained a conditional one. Upon the question of Von Ribbentrop as to what purpose the desired General Staff conferences were to have, not much more was brought forward than the Hungarian desire of a mutual inventory of military material and preparedness for the Czech conflict. The clear political basis for such a conflict--the time of a Hungarian intervention--was not obtained.
In the meantime, more positive language was used by Von Horthy in his talk with the Fuehrer. He wished not to hide his doubts with regard to the English attitude, but he wished to put on record Hungary's intention to participate. The Hungarian Ministers were, and remained even later, more skeptical since they feel more strongly about the immediate danger for Hungary with its unprotected flanks.
When Von Imredy had a discussion with the Fuehrer in the afternoon he was very relieved when the Fuehrer explained to him that in regard to the situation in question he demanded nothing of Hungary. He himself would not know the time. Whoever wanted to join the meal would have to participate in the cooking as well. Should Hungary wish conferences of the General Staffs he would have no objections.
On the voyage of the Patria Ambassador Attolico explained to me that he had instructions to request the notification of a contemplated time for German action against Czechoslovakia from the German Government. In case the Czechs should again cause a provocation against Germany, Germany would march. This would be tomorrow, in 6 months, or perhaps in a year. However, I could promise him that the German Government, in case of an increasing gravity of the situation or as soon as the Fuehrer made his decision, would notify the Italian Chief of Government as rapidly as possible. In any case, the Italian Government will be the first one who will receive such a notification.August 25, 1938: From another German Foreign Office note:
Concerning Hungary's military preparedness in case of a German-Czech conflict Von Kanya mentioned several days ago that his country would need a period of one to two years in order to develop adequately the armed strength of Hungary. During today's conversation Von Kanya corrected this remark and said that Hungary's military situation was much better. His country would be ready, as far as armaments were concerned, to take part in the conflict by October 1 of this year.August 27, 1938: From yet another German Foreign Office note:
Ambassador Attolico paid me a visit today at 12 o'clock to communicate the following: He had received another written instruction from Mussolini asking that Germany communicate in time the probable date of action against Czechoslovakia. Mussolini asked for such notification, as Mr. Attolico assured me, in order "to be able to take in due time the necessary measures on the French frontier."September 6, 1938 Jodl's Diary:
Chief of General Staff, General of Artillery Halder, has a conference with the Hungarian Chief of General Staff Fischer. Before that he is briefed by me on the political attitude of the Fuehrer, especially his order not to give any hint on the exact moment.September 16, 1938: From a telegram from the Foreign Office in Berlin to the Legation in Prague:
Tonight 150 subjects of Czechoslovakia of Czech blood were arrested in Germany. This measure is an answer to the arrest of Sudeten Germans since the Fuehrer's speech of 12 September. I request you to ascertain as soon as possible the number of Sudeten Germans arrested since 12 September as far as possible. The number of those arrested there is estimated conservatively at 400 by the Gestapo. Cable report. .... Impossible for me to ascertain these facts as already communicated to the charge d'affaires.September 17, 1938: From the Reich Foreign Office, Most urgent:
Request to inform the local government immediately of the following: The Reich Government has decided that: (a) Immediately as many Czech subjects of Czech descent, Czech-speaking Jews included, will be arrested in Germany as Sudeten Germans have been in Czechoslovakia since the beginning of the week; (b) If any Sudeten Germans should be executed pursuant to a death sentence on the basis of martial law, an equal number of Czechs will be shot in Germany.September 24, 1938: To the Reich Foreign Office:
According to information received here, Czechs have arrested two German frontier policemen, seven customs officials, and 30 railway officials. As counter measure all the Czech staff in Marschegg were arrested. We are prepared to exchange the arrested Czech officials for the German officials. Please approach Government there and wire result. .... Confidential. Yielding of Czech hostages arrested here for the prevention of the execution of any sentences passed by military courts against Sudeten Germans is, of course, out of question.September 28, 1938: Hitler speaks in Berlin:
And now we are faced with the final problem that must be solved and will be solved! It is the final territorial demand which I shall make of Europe, but it is the demand which I shall not give up and which with God's help I shall ensure is fulfilled. The history of this problem is this: in 1918, in the spirit of "the right of nations to self-determination" Central Europe was torn apart and reshaped by some insane so-called statesmen. Without regard to the origins of the Peoples, their national aspirations, the economic necessities, Central Europe was fragmented and new states were formed arbitrarily. It is to this process that Czechoslovakia owes its existence. This Czech state began with one single lie...September 29, 1938 Muenchen Konferenz: The Munich Conference concludes.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Then came the Munich conference. I take it I need not go into the details of this conference; I should like only to describe briefly the results of it. The Fuehrer explained to the statesmen, with the aid of a map, the necessity, as he saw it, of annexing a particular part of the Sudetenland to the German Reich to reach final satisfaction. A discussion arose; Mussolini, the Italian Chief of Government, agreed in general with Hitler's ideas. The English Prime Minister made at first certain reservations and also mentioned that perhaps the details might be discussed with the Czechs, with Prague.
Daladier, the French Minister, said, as far as I recall, that he thought that since this problem had already been broached, the four great powers should make a decision here and now. In the end this opinion was shared by all the four statesmen; as a result the Munich Agreement was drawn up providing that the Sudetenland should be annexed to Germany as outlined on the maps that were on hand. The Fuehrer was very pleased and happy about this solution, and, with regard to other versions of this matter which I have heard during the Trial here, I should like to emphasize here once more particularly that I also was happy. We all were extremely happy that in this way in this form the matter had been solved.
September 29, 1938 Jodl's Diary:
The Munich Pact is signed, Czechoslovakia as a power is out. Four zones as set forth will be occupied between the 2d and 7th of October. The remaining part of mainly German character will be occupied by the 10th of October. The genius of the Fuehrer and his determination not to shun even a world war have again won the victory without the use of force. The hope remains that the incredulous, the weak, and the doubtful people have been converted and will remain that way.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The Munich Agreement is well known. Its contents were the following: Germany and England should never again wage war; the naval agreement on the ratio of 100 to 35 was to be permanent and, in important matters, consultations were to be resorted to. Through this agreement the atmosphere between Germany and England was undoubtedly cleared up to a certain degree. It was to be expected that the success of this pact would lead to a final understanding. The disappointment was great when, a few days after Munich, rearmament at any cost was announced in England.
Then England started on a policy of alliance and close relationship with France. In November 1938 trade policy measures were taken against Germany, and in December 1938 the British Colonial Secretary made a speech in which a "no" was put to anv revision of the colonial question. Contact with the United States of America was also established. Our reports of that period, as I. remember them, showed an increased--I should like to say--stiffening of the English attitude toward Germany; and the impression was created in Germany of a policy which practically aimed at the encirclement of Germany.
October 9, 1938: Hitler speaks in Saarbruecken:
...Inquiries by British statesmen or Parliamentarians concerning the fate of the Reich's subjects inside Germany are out of order. We do not bother about similar things in England. The rest of the world would sometimes have had reason enough to bother about international happenings--happenings in Palestine. We leave this to those who feel themselves pre-ordained by God to solve these problems. And we observe with amazement how they do solve them. We must, however, give these gentlemen advice to attend even more to the solution of their own problems and to leave us in peace. It also is part of the task of securing world peace that responsible statesmen and politicians look after their own affairs and refrain from constantly meddling talk with the problems of other countries and peoples. By such mutual consideration, preconditions are really created for durable peace, of which no one is more earnestly desirous than the German people...From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: There had always been the minority problem in Poland, which had caused great difficulties. Despite the agreement of 1934, this situation had not changed. In the year 1938 the 'de-Germanization' measures against German minorities were continued by Poland. Hitler wished to reach some clear settlement with Poland, as well as with other countries. Therefore he charged me, I believe during October 1938, to discuss with the Polish ambassador a final clarification of the problems existing between Germany and Poland...There were two questions: One, the minority problem, was the most burning one; the second problem was the question of Danzig and the Corridor, that is to say, of a connection with East Prussia. ....
It is clear that these two questions were the problems that had caused the greatest difficulties since Versailles. Hitler had to solve these problems sooner or later one way or another. I shared this point of view. Danzig was exposed to continual pressure by the Poles; they wanted to "Polandize" Danzig more and more and by October of 1938 from 800,000 to a million Germans, I believe, had been expelled from the Corridor or had returned to Germany. ....
The Polish Ambassador was reticent at first. He did not commit himself, nor could he do so. I naturally approached him with the problem in such a way that he could discuss it at ease with his government, and did not request, so to speak, a definitive answer from him. He said that of course he saw certain difficulties with reference to Danzig, and also a corridor to East Prussia was a question which required much consideration. He was very reticent, and the discussion ended with his promise to communicate my statements, made on behalf of the German Government, to his government, and to give me an answer in the near future.
November 6, 1938: Hitler speaks in Weimar:
If today at times in foreign countries Parliamentarians or politicians venture to maintain that Germany has not kept her treaties, then we can give as our answer to these men: the greatest breach of a treaty that ever was practiced on the German people. Every promise which had been made to Germany in the Fourteen Points--those promises on the faith of which Germany had laid down her arms--was afterwards broken. In 1932 Germany was faced with final collapse. The German Reich and people both seemed lost. And then came the German resurrection. It began with a change of faith. While all the German parties before us believed in forces and ideals which lay outside of the German Reich and outside of our people, we National Socialists have resolutely championed belief in our own people, starting from that watchword of eternal validity: God helps only those who are prepared and determined to help themselves...November 11, 1938: The US ambassador to Germany is recalled.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: We never really found out the details, and we very much regretted it, as it forced us to recall our own Ambassador in Washington, at least to call him back to make a report. It is, however, evident that this measure was determined by the whole attitude of the United States. Many incidents took place about that time which gradually convinced the Fuehrer that sooner or later they would bring the United States into the war against us. Permit me to mention a few examples. President Roosevelt's attitude was defined for the first time in the 'quarantine speech' which he made in 1937. The press then started an energetic campaign.
After the ambassador was recalled the situation grew more critical and the effect began to make itself felt in every sphere of German-American relations. I believe that many documents dealing with the subject have been published in the meantime and that a number of these have been submitted by the Defense, dealing, for instance, with the attitude adopted by certain United States diplomats at the time of the Polish crisis; the cash-and-carry clause was then introduced which could benefit only Germany's enemies; the ceding of destroyers to England; the so-called Lend-Lease Bill later on; and in other fields the further advance of the United States towards Europe: The occupation of Greenland, Iceland, on the African Continent, et cetera; the aid given to Soviet Russia after the outbreak of this war. All these measures strengthened the Fuehrer's conviction that sooner or later he would certainly have to reckon with a war against America. There is no doubt that the Fuehrer did not, in the first instance, want such a war; and I may say that I myself, as I think you will see from many of the documents submitted by the Prosecution, again and again did everything I could, in the diplomatic field, to keep the United States out of this war.
November 17, 1938: Lipski visits Ribbentrop and declares that the problem involves considerable difficulties and that the Danzig question in particular is very difficult in view of Poland's entire attitude.
December 6, 1938: Ribbentrop visits Paris, where he and the French foreign minister, Georges Bonnet, sign a grand-sounding but largely meaningless Declaration of Franco-German Friendship. Ribbentrop is later to claim that Bonnet told him that France recognized Eastern Europe as being within Germany's sphere of influence.
January 21, 1939: From the minutes of Hitler's reception of the Czech Foreign Affairs Minister, Chvalkovsky:
Chvalkovsky began by thanking the Fuehrer for having done his country the honor of receiving the Minister for Foreign Affairs twice within 3 months. He had come here to inform the Fuehrer that he had strictly fulfilled the promise made to him on 14 October although this had cost him a very great deal of trouble. ....January 25, 1939: From a speech by Ribbentrop in Warsaw:
The Fuehrer thanked him for his statements. The foreign policy of a people is determined by its home policy. It is quite impossible to carry out a foreign policy of type 'A' and at the same time a home policy of type 'B.' It could succeed only for a short time. From the very beginning the development of events in Czechoslovakia was bound to lead to a catastrophe. This catastrophe had been averted thanks to the moderate conduct of Germany. Had Germany not followed the National Socialist principles which do not permit of territorial annexations the fate of Czechoslovakia would have followed another course. Whatever remains today of Czechoslovakia has been rescued not by Benes, but by the National Socialist tendencies. ....
For instance, the strength of the Dutch and Danish armies rests not in themselves alone but in realizing the fact that the whole world was convinced of the absolute neutrality of these states. When war broke out, it was well known that the problem of neutrality was one of extreme importance to these countries. The case of Belgium was somewhat different, as that country had an agreement with the French General Staff. In this particular case Germany was compelled to forestall possible eventualities. These small countries were defended not by their armies but by the trust shown in their neutrality. ....
Chvalkovsky, backed by Mastny, again spoke about the situation in Czechoslovakia and about the healthy farmers there. Before the crisis, the people did not know what to expect of Germany. But when they saw that they would not be exterminated and that the Germans wished only to lead their people back home, they heaved a sigh of relief. .... World propaganda, against which the Fuehrer had been struggling for so long a time, was now focused on tiny Czechoslovakia. Chvalkovsky begged the Fuehrer to address, from time to time, a few kind words to the Czech people. That might work miracles. The Fuehrer is unaware of the great value attached to his words by the Czech people. If he would only openly declare that he intended to collaborate with the Czech people--and with the people, themselves, not with the Minister for Foreign Affairs--all foreign propaganda would be utterly defeated. The Fuehrer concluded the conversation by expressing his belief in a promising future.
It is a fundamental part of German foreign policy in accordance with the firm will of the Fuehrer of the German people that the friendly relations between Germany and Poland, based on the existing treaty, be strengthened progressively and deepened...Thus Poland and Germany can look forward to the future with complete confidence upon the solid basis of their mutual relations.January 25, 1939: Polish Foreign Minister Beck visits Hitler at Berchtesgaden.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I was present at that conversation. The result was that Adolf Hitler informed Beck, once more in detail, of his desire for good German-Polish relations. He said that a completely new solution would have to be found in regard to Danzig, and that a corridor to East Prussia should not give rise to insurmountable difficulties. During this conversation Mr. Beck was rather receptive. He told the Fuehrer that naturally the question of Danzig was difficult because of the mouth of the Vistula, but he would think the problem over in all its details. He did not at all refuse to discuss this problem, but rather he pointed out the difficulties which, due to the Polish attitude, confronted a solution of the problem. ....
After the meeting at Berchtesgaden with the Fuehrer, I had another lengthy conversation with Beck in Munich. During this conversation Beck explained to me again that the problem was very difficult, but that he would do everything he could; he would speak to his governmental colleagues, and one would have to find a solution of some kind. On this occasion we agreed that I would pay him a return visit in Warsaw.
During this visit we also spoke about the minority question, about Danzig and the Corridor. During this conversation the matter did not progress either; Mr. Beck rather repeated the arguments why it was difficult. I told him that it was simply impossible to leave this problem, the way it was between Germany and Poland. I pointed out the great difficulties encountered by the German minorities and the undignified sititation, as I should like to put it, that is, the always undignified difficulties confronting Germans who wanted to travel to East Prussia. Beck promised to help in the minority question, and also to re-examine the other questions. Then, on the following day, I spoke briefly with Marshal Smygly-Rydz, but this conversation did not lead to anything.
January 25, 1939: From "The Jewish Question as a Factor in German Foreign Policy in the Year 1938" by Reich Foreign Minister Ribbentrop:
It is certainly no coincidence that the fateful year 1938 has brought nearer the solution of the Jewish question simultaneously with the realization of the 'idea of Greater Germany,' since the Jewish policy was both the basis and consequence of the events of the year 1938...The final goal of German Jewish policy is the emigration of all the Jews living in Reich territory. ....
These examples from reports from authorities abroad can, if desired, be amplified. They confirm the correctness of the expectation that criticism of the measures for excluding Jews from German Lebensraum, which were misunderstood in many countries for lack of evidence, would be only temporary and would swing in the other direction the moment the population saw with its own eyes and thus learned what the Jewish danger was to them. The poorer and therefore the more burdensome the immigrant Jew is to the country absorbing him, the stronger this country will react and the more desirable is this effect in the interest of German propaganda. The object of this German action is to be a future international solution of the Jewish question, dictated not by false compassion for the "United Religious Jewish Minority" but by the full consciousness of all peoples of the danger which it represents to the racial composition of the nations.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I saw this circular here for the first time. Here are the facts: There was a section in the Foreign Office which was concerned with Party matters and questions of ideology. That department undoubtedly co-operated with the competent departments of the Party. That was not the Foreign Office itself. I saw the circular here. It seems to me that it is on the same lines as most of the circulars issued at the time for the information and training of officials, and so on. It even might possibly have gone through my office, but I think that the fact that it was signed by a section chief and not by myself or by the state secretary, should prove that I did not consider the circular very important even if I did see it.
Even if it did go through my office or pass me in some other way, I certainly did not read it because in principle I did not read such long documents, but asked my assistants to give me a short summary of the contents. I may add that I received hundreds of letters in the course of the day's work, some of which were read to me, and also circulars and decrees which I signed, and many of which I did not acquaint myself with. I wish to state, however, that if one of my officials signed the circular it goes without saying that I assume full responsibility for it.
February 12, 1939: A Slovak delegation journeys to Berlin. It consists of Tuka, one of the Slovaks with whom the Germans had been in contact, and Karmasin, the paid representative of the Nazi conspirators in Slovakia. From notes of their meeting with Hitler and Ribbentrop in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin:
After a brief welcome Tuka thanks the Fuehrer for granting this meeting. He addresses the Fuehrer with "My Fuehrer" and he voices the opinion that he, though only a modest man himself, might well claim to speak for the Slovak nation. The Czech courts and prison gave him the right to make such a statement. He states that the Fuehrer had not only opened the Slovak question but that he had been also the first one to acknowledge the dignity of the Slovak nation. The Slovakian people will gladly fight under the leadership of the Fuehrer for the maintenance of European civilization. Obviously future association with the Czechs had become an impossibility for the Slovaks from a moral as well as an economic point of view. .... I entrust the fate of my people to your care.March 13, 1939: A declaration of the independence of Slovakia is made by Tiso.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: There is no doubt that there were relations between Slovakians and quite a number of members of the National Socialist German Workers Party. These tendencies naturally were known to the Foreign Office, and it would be wrong to say that we in any way did not welcome them. But it is not correct to say that the autonomy was demanded or forced by us in any way. I remember that Dr. Tiso proclaimed this autonomy; and the Prague Government, under the influence of Munich, also recognized the autonomy. What the situation was like at the time after Munich can be seen from the fact that all minorities of Czechoslovakia wanted autonomy and independence.
Shortly thereafter the Carpatho-Ukrainians declared their independence and others as well had similar aspirations. In the Munich Agreement, I should like to add, there was a clause according to which Germany and Italy were to give Czechoslovakia a guarantee; but a declaration to this effect was not made. The reason for that was that Poland, after the Munich Agreement, sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia, and on her own initiative, severed the Polish minorities and occupied these areas. The Hungarians also wanted autonomy, or rather, incorporation of Hungarian areas; and certain areas of Czechoslovakia were thereupon given to Hungary by the Vienna decision.
The situation in Czechoslovakia, however, was not yet clear and also remained difficult during the following period. Then the Slovak, Tuka, approached us. He wanted to win Germany's approval for Slovakia's independence. The Fuehrer received Tuka at that time and, after a few interludes, the final result was the declaration of independence of Slovakia made by Tiso on 13 March. The Prosecution have submitted a document in which I am alleged to have said, during the conversation which took place between the Fuehrer and Tiso, that it was only a matter of hours, not of days, that Slovakia would have to come to a decision.
However, this was to be understood to mean that at that time preparations for an invasion had been made by Hungary in order to occupy Carpatho-Ukrainia as well as some other regions of Slovakia. We wanted to prevent a war between Slovakia and Hungary or between Czechoslovakia and Hungary; Hitler was greatly concerned about it, and therefore he gladly complied with Tiso's desire. Later, after the declaration of Slovakia's independence by the Slovak parliament, he complied with Tiso's request and took over the protection of Slovakia.
March 14, 1939: Czechoslovak President Emil Hacha leaves for Berlin.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Events in Slovakia had their repercussions, of course, and chiefly very strong excesses against racial Germans in the area of Prague, Brunn, Iglau, et cetera, were reported to Hitler. Many fugitives came into the old Reich. In the winter of 1938-39 I repeatedly attempted to discuss these matters with the Prague Government. Hitler was convinced that a development was being initiated in Prague which could not be tolerated by the German Reich. It was the attitude of the press and the influential government circles in Prague. The Fuehrer also wished that the Czech nation should reduce her military power, but this was refused by Prague.
During these months I tried repeatedly to maintain good German relations with Prague. In particular I spoke frequently with Chvalkovsky, the Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister. In the middle of March, Chvalkovsky, the Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister, turned to our German representative in Prague to find out whether Hitler would give Hacha the opportunity of a personal interview. I reported this to the Fuehrer and the Fuehrer agreed to receive Hacha; however, he told me that he wished to deal with this matter personally. To that effect I had an exchange of telegrams with Prague: A reserved attitude should be taken in Prague but Hacha should be told that the Fuehrer would receive him.
At this point I should like to mention briefly that the Foreign Office and I myself did not know anything at this date of impending military events. We learned about these things only shortly before they happened. Before the arrival of Hacha I asked the Fuehrer whether a treaty was to be prepared. The Fuehrer answered, as I recall distinctly, that he had the intention of going far beyond that. After the arrival of Hacha in Berlin I visited him at once and he told me he wanted to place the fate of the Czech State in the Fuehrer's hands. I reported this to the Fuehrer and the Fuehrer instructed me to draft an agreement. The draft was submitted to him and corrected later on, as I remember. Hacha was then received by the Fuehrer and the results of this conference, as far as I know, are already known here and have been submitted in documentary form so that I do not need to go into it.
I know that Adolf Hitler at that time spoke pointedly to Hacha and told him that he intended to occupy Czechoslovakia. It concerned old historic territory which he intended to take under his protection. The Czechs were to have complete autonomy and their own way of living, and he believed that the decision which was being made on that day would result in great benefit for the Czech people. While Hacha talked to the Fuehrer, or rather afterwards--I was present at the Fuehrer's conference with Hacha--I had, a long discussion with the Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky. He adopted our point of view fairly readily and I asked him to influence Hacha so that the Fuehrer's decision and the whole action might be carried out without bloodshed.
I believe it was the deep impression made on him first of all by the Fuehrer and then by what Adolf Hitler had told him which caused Hacha to get in touch by telephone with his Government in Prague and also, I believe, with the Chief of the General Staff. I do not know this exactly. He obtained the approval of his Government to sign the agreement which I mentioned at the beginning. This agreement was then signed by Hitler, Hacha, and both the Foreign Ministers, that is by myself also. Then Hacha, as I recall, gave instructions that the German Army should be received cordially and, as far as I know, the march into and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, that is Bohemia and Moravia, was completed without serious incident of any kind.
March 15, 1939: In defiance of the Munich Pact, the Nazis seize and occupy Bohemia and Moravia.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the occupation I went to Prague with the Fuehrer. After the occupation, or maybe it was in Prague, the Fuehrer gave me in the morning a proclamation in which the countries of Bohemia and Moravia were declared to be a protectorate of the Reich. I read out this proclamation in Prague which, I may say, was somewhat a surprise to me. No protest of any sort was made as far as I recall, and I believe I might mention that the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, which the Führer considered necessary in the ultimate interest of the Reich, took place for historical and economic reasons and above all for reasons of security for the German Reich.
March 15, 1939 Proclamation of the Fuehrer to the German people:
To the German People: Only a few months ago Germany was compelled to protect her fellow countrymen, living in well-defined settlements, against the unbearable Czechoslovakian terror regime; and during the last weeks the same thing has happened on an ever-increasing scale. This is bound to create an intolerable state of affairs within an area inhabited by citizens of so many nationalities. These national groups, to counteract the renewed attacks against their freedom and life, have now broken away from the Prague Government. Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist. Since Sunday at many places wild excesses have broken out, amongst the victims of which are again many Germans. Hourly the number of oppressed and persecuted people crying for help is increasing.
From areas thickly populated by German-speaking inhabitants, which last autumn Czechoslovakia was allowed by German generosity to retain, refugees robbed of their personal belongings are streaming into the Reich. Continuation of such a state of affairs would lead to the destruction of every vestige of order in an area in which Germany is vitally interested particularly as for over 1,000 years it formed a part of the German Reich. In order definitely to remove this menace to peace and to create the conditions for a necessary new order in this living space, I have today resolved to allow German troops to march into Bohemia and Moravia. They will disarm the terror gangs and the Czechoslovakian forces supporting them, and protect the lives of all who are menaced. Thus they will lay the foundations for introducing a fundamental re-ordering of affairs which will be in accordance with the 1,000-year-old history and will satisfy the practical needs of the German and Czech peoples. -Adolf Hitler, Berlin.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I might say that after the proclamation at Prague I had a lengthy discussion with the Fuehrer. I pointed out to the Fuehrer that this occupation, of course, would have considerable repercussions in British-French circles. In this connection I should like to point out that in England those circles which had turned against Germany had grown larger and were led by important persons. In this connection I should like to come back to or mention briefly one incident which took place while I was still Ambassador in London, when Mr. Winston Churchill paid me a visit at the Embassy. Mr. Winston Churchill was not in the government at that time, and I believe he was not leader of the opposition--it has already been discussed--but he was one of the most outstanding personalities in England. I was especially interested in arranging a meeting between him and Adolf Hitler and therefore had asked him to come to see me at the Embassy. We had a conversation which lasted several hours and the details of which I recall exactly.
March 16, 1939: From the Decree of the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor on the Establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia:
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 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 Javornik Mountains. The Government of Slovakia will take the necessary steps to assure that the land required for these installations shall be conveyed to the German Armed Forces. Furthermore, the Government of Slovakia will agree to grant exemption from custom duties for imports from the Reich for the maintenance of the German troops and the supply of military installations.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I called the Fuehrer's attention to the British reaction. Adolf Hitler explained to me the necessity of the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, especially on historic and strategic grounds. I remember that in this connection he quoted especially the former French Minister of Aviation, Pierre Cot, who had called Bohemia and Moravia, that is Czechoslovakia, the "airplane carrier" against Germany. I believe it was Reich Marshal Goering who already mentioned that at that time we received intelligence reports of Russian pilots or Russian missions being on Czech airdromes.
Hitler said to me, and I remember these words distinctly, that he could not tolerate an inimical Czech thorn in the German flesh. One could get along well enough with the Czechs, but it was necessary for Germany to have in her hands the protection of these countries. He mentioned Soviet Russia, allied with Czechoslovakia, as a factor of inestimable power. When I mentioned England and her reaction he said that England was in no position to take over the protection of the Germans in Czechoslovakia.
Furthermore, the structure of the Czechoslovakian State had disintegrated and Slovakia had become independent. Therefore he thought it was necessary in the interest of future German-English relations that the countries of Bohemia and Moravia should come into a close contact with the Reich. A protectorate seemed to him to be the appropriate form. Adolf Hitler said that while this question was utterly unimportant to England it was absolutely vital for Germany. This becomes evident if one glances at the map--this is what he literally said. Besides, he said, he was unable to see how this solution could disturb the co-operation which was being striven for between Germany and England. Hitler pointed out that England--by chance I still remember the figurehead about 600 dominions, protectorates, and colonies and therefore should understand that such problems have to be solved.
I told Adolf Hitler about the difficulties which might confront Mr. Chamberlain personally because of this action on the part of Germany, that England might consider this an increase of Germany's power and so on; but the Fuehrer explained the whole question with the reasons I have mentioned before. The English reaction at first, in the person of Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons, was rather a positive one. He said it was not a violation of the Munich Agreement and the British Government was not bound by any obligation. The Czechoslovakian State had disintegrated and the guarantee which England had said she would give had not come into effect, or rather the obligations of the guarantee did not apply under the circumstances. I might say that all of us were glad that this attitude was taken in England.
March 18, 1939: Soviet Foreign Minister Litvinov proposes (for the second time in a year), that Poland, Russia, Britain, Rumania, Turkey, France and Britain join together to form a pact to stop Hitler. Chamberlain, probably due to distrust of Russia, finds this action to be premature.
March 20, 1939: In response to the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, FDR recalls the US ambassador to Berlin.
March 21, 1939: Hitler issues strong demands to the Polish government for the annexation of Danzig and Posen. Also: The German government guarantees Lithuanian independence and integrity while the Lithuanians acquiesce to the peaceful transfer of Memel back to Germany.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: ...on the 21st I had a talk with Lipski...and in this talk Lipski expressed certain doubts concerning Slovakia and the protection afforded by Germany. He expressed the wish that between Hungary and Poland, two countries which had always had close relations with each other, a, direct, common boundary might be established and asked whether or not this would be possible. He also inquired indirectly whether the protection afforded to Slovakia was directed in any way against Poland. I assured Mr. Beck that neither Hitler nor anybody else had been motivated by the slightest intention of acting against Poland when the protection was promised. It was merely a measure to point out to Hungary that the territorial questions were now settled. However, I believe I told Mr. Lipski to look forward to such a link being established via the Carpathio-Ukraine.
March 22, 1939: Hitler takes Memel from Lithuania.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The small territory of Memel, being the land mentioned in our National anthem, was always very dear to the hearts of the entire German people. The military facts are well known. It was placed under the control of the Allied Powers after the World War I and was later seized and occupied by Lithuanian soldiers by a coup de main. The country itself is ancient German territory, and it was natural that it should wish to become a part of Germany once more. As early as 1938, the Fuehrer referred to this problem in my presence as one which would have to be solved sooner or later. In the spring of 1939 negotiations were begun with the Lithuanian Government.
These negotiations resulted in a meeting between Urbisk, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, and myself, and an agreement was signed, by means of which the Memel territory was once more to become part of the Reich. That was in March 1939. I do not need to describe the sufferings which this region has had to endure in the past years. At any rate it was quite in accordance with the principle of the self-determination of peoples, that the will of the people of Memel was granted in 1939, and all that the agreement did, was to restore a perfectly natural state of affairs and one which would have had in any case to be established sooner or later.
March 26, 1939: Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop tells the Polish Ambassador to Germany, Jozef Lipski, that "any violation of Danzig territory by Polish troops would be regarded as aggression against the Reich."
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: ...the Danzig and Corridor problem, since 1919, had been considered by statesman of great authority the problem with which somehow the revision of Versailles would have to start. I should like to remind you of the statement by Marshal Foch and other statements by Winston Churchill, who also elaborated on this subject, as well as by Clemenceau, et cetera. All these statesmen were undoubtedly of the opinion that a territorial revision of this Corridor would really have to be undertaken.
But Hitler, for his part, wanted to make it an over-all settlement and reach an understanding with Poland on the basis of his putting up with the Corridor and taking only Danzig back into the Reich, whereby Poland was to be afforded a very generous solution in the economic field. That, in other words, was the basis of the proposals which I had been working on for 4 to 5 months on Hitler's order. All the greater was our surprise when, suddenly, the other side declared that a further pursuit of these plans and solutions, which we regarded as very generous, would mean war. I informed Hitler of this, and I remember very well that Hitler received it very calmly.
March 30, 1939: Polish Foreign Minister Beck is presented an Anglo-French proposal for mutual assistance in case of German aggression.
March 31, 1939: Chamberlain addresses Parliament, declaring support of Poland with military assistance in case any action was threatened by Germany. He speaks for France as well.
April 1, 1939: Hitler speaks in Wilhelmshaven:
When the Allies, without regard or purpose, right, tradition, or even reasonableness, changed the map of Europe, we had not the power to prevent it. If, however, they expect the Germany of today to sit patiently by until the very last day when this same result would again be repeated--while they create satellite States and set them against Germany--then they are mistaking the Germany of today for the Germany of before the war. He who declares himself ready to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for these powers must realize he burns his fingers. Really, we feel no hatred against the Czech people. We have lived together for years. The English statesmen do not know this. They have no idea that Hradcany castle was not built by an Englishman but by a German and that the St. Vitus Cathedral likewise was not erected by Englishmen but that German hands did it...April 6, 1939: Polish Foreign Minister Beck travels to London and returns with a temporary agreement of mutual assistance between Poland, England, and France.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The German reaction here I might refer to Hitler's Reichstag speech in which he stated his attitude toward this whole problem. We felt this pact of mutual assistance between Poland and England to be not in agreement with the German-Polish pact of 1934, for in the 1934 pact any application of force was excluded between Germany and Poland. By the new pact concluded between Poland and England without previous consultation with Germany, Poland had bound herself for example, to attack Germany in case of any conflict between Germany and England. I know that Adolf Hitler felt that it was also not in conformity with the agreements between him and Mr. Chamberlain in Munich, namely, the elimination of any resort to force between Germany and England, regardless of what might happen.
April 7, 1939: Mussolini sends troops into Albania. His second conquested country after Ethiopia. This gives him access to Yugoslavia and Greece.
May 8, 1939: Mauthausen-Gusen camp, a prison camp for common criminals, prostitutes and other categories of "Incorrigible Law Offenders," is converted to a labor camp which will be mainly used for the incarceration of political prisoners. The prisoners will be marched daily to the stone-quarries at Gusen.
May 22, 1939 Pakt von Stahl: Hitler signs the "Pact of Steel" with Italy.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: It is known that between Germany and Italy friendly relations had naturally existed for a long time; and when the European situation became more acute these relations were, at Mussolini's suggestion, intensified and a pact of alliance, which was discussed first by Count Ciano and me in Milan, was drawn up and provisionally signed on the order of the Government heads. This was an answer to the efforts of English-French policy.
July 13, 1939: Sigrid Schultz writes in the Chicago Tribune:
Communism, Soviet Russia and Dictator Stalin were called the arch enemies of civilization when Hitler was advancing toward supreme power. Hatred of communism and the faith of the bourgeois that he would save from communism helped him become master of Germany. Today England is being proclaimed as World Enemy No.1. She is accused of usurping the rights of small nations, of opposing Germany's "right to be the first power in the world."August 6, 1939: The crisis with Poland intensifies when a dispute with the customs inspectors takes place in Danzig.
Hatred of England is simmering or blazing in Japan, India, Arabia, Africa, Ireland, Russia, and England's ally, France. It is being fanned systematically by Nazi agents throughout the world. Hitler, it is said, hopes to use this hatred to establish Germany as the most powerful nation in the world, the same as he used the German citizen's hatred of communism to establish his rule in Germany. Friendship with Soviet Russia, or at least an understanding with her, can prove a powerful weapon in Germany's campaign "to force England to her knees," diplomatic sources declare. The Germans figure that the English are so terrified of the possible formation of a Soviet-German bloc that Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax will again go to Germany and offer all the concessions the Germans want. If the British fail to respond to the threat, the Germans argue that they can still get enough raw materials and money out of Russia to make the deal worth while.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: A quarrel had arisen between the Polish representative and the Senate of the City of Danzig. The Polish representative had sent a note to the President of the Senate informing him that certain customs officers of the Senate wanted to disobey Polish regulations. This information proved later to be false, was answered by the Senate, and led to a sharp exchange of notes between the Senate and the Polish representative. On Hitler's order I told the State Secretary of the Foreign Office to lodge appropriate protests with the Polish Government.
August 12, 1939: Hitler, during a meeting with Ciano:
Generally speaking, the best thing to happen would be to liquidate false neutrals one after the other. This process could be carried out more easily if, on every occasion, one partner of the Axis covered the other while it was dealing with an uncertain neutral. Italy might well regard Yugoslavia as a neutral of this kind.August 13, 1939: Hitler, during another meeting with Ciano:
In general, however, on success by one of the Axis partners, not only strategically but also psychological strengthening of the other partner and also of the whole Axis would ensue. Italy carried through a number of successful operations in Abyssinia, Spain, and Albania, and each time against the wishes of the democratic entente. These individual actions have not only strengthened Italian local interests, but have also ... reinforced her general position. The same was the case with German action in Austria and Czechoslovakia .... The strengthening of the Axis by these individual operations was of the greatest importance for the unavoidable clash with the Western Powers.August 20, 1939: Hitler sends a personal message to Stalin, agreeing in principal to the Russian's draft of the non-aggression pact. (Hitler's secret plan to invade Poland is only ten days away.) At the same time, in Anglo-Polish peace efforts, Poland refuses to cooperate in allowing Russian troops to meet the Germans on its soil if need be. Britain and France let peace talks flounder.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: In the middle of August all sorts of things had happened which, as I should like to put it, charged the atmosphere with electricity: frontier incidents, difficulties between Danzig and Poland. On the one hand, Germany was accused of sending arms to Danzig, and, on the other hand, we accused the Poles of taking military measures in Danzig, and so on.
August 21, 1939: France, unaware of Soviet-German dealings, orders its ambassador to get Russia to sign a military alliance pact at any cost. Too late. Stalin informs Hitler directly (through telegram) that he will accept Ribbentrop’s arrival for the signing of a Soviet-German non-aggression pact.
August 22, 1939: Meeting in Obersalzberg, Hitler tells his generals that the destruction of Poland "starts on Saturday morning" (26 August), the aim of this war is the wholesale destruction of Poland. Hitler proclaims to the commanders of the armed services:
Our strength is in our quickness and our brutality. Genghis Khan had millions of women and children killed by his own will and with a gay heart. History sees him only as a great state builder... Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my "Death's Head Units" with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?August 22, 1939: Telegram from Adolf Hitler in Berlin to the Reich Foreign Minister, Herr Joachim von Ribbentrop in Moscow:
I hereby grant full power to negotiate, in the name of the German Reich, with authorized representatives of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, regarding a non-aggression treaty, as well as all related questions, and if occasion arises, to sign both the non-aggression treaty and other agreements resulting from the negotiations, with the proviso that this treaty and these agreements shall enter into force as soon as they are signed.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Negotiations with Russia had already started sometime previously. Marshal Stalin, in March 1939, delivered a speech in which he made certain hints of his desire to have better relations with Germany. I had submitted this speech to Adolf Hitler and asked him whether we should not try to find out whether this suggestion had something real behind it. Hitler was at first reluctant, but later on he became more receptive to this idea. Negotiations for a commercial treaty were under way, and during these negotiations, with the Fuehrer's permission, I took soundings in Moscow as to the possibility of a definite bridge between National Socialism and Bolshevism and whether the interests of the two countries could not at least be made to harmonize. ....
On the evening of 22 August I arrived in Moscow. The reception given me by Stalin and Molotov was very friendly. We had at first a 2-hour conversation. During this conversation the entire complex of Russo-German relations was discussed. The result was, first, the mutual will of both countries to put their relations on a completely new basis. This was to be expressed in a pact of non-aggression. Secondly, the spheres of interests of the two countries were to be defined; this was done by a secret supplementary protocol.
August 22, 1939: From a Memorandum by the State Secretary in the German Foreign Office (Weizsaecker):
...The present proceedings were not a cause for surprise (to Japanese Ambassador Oshima) inasmuch as the Reich Foreign Minister had informed the Ambassador some months previously that a normalization of German-Russian relations was worth attempting. 3) Such an arrangement would also put us in a position to take steps to bring about a period of quiet in Japanese-Russian relations and to insure its continuance for a considerable period of time. That Japan was at the moment not seeking a Japanese-Russian conflict was certain. I had even received from the Russian side the impression that a Moscow-Tokyo agreement would be welcomed there...August 22, 1939: Neville Chamberlain writes a letter to Hitler, warning him the German-Soviet Agreement will not alter Britain's obligation to come to the aid of Poland:
...apparently the announcement of a German-Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland is no longer a contingency that need be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made...Note: Hitler, encouraged by Ribbentrop, will remain convinced that Chamberlain is bluffing, as he will also misjudge Neville's successor.
August 23, 1939: The chief of the legal department of the Foreign Office, Ambassador Dr. Gaus, participates as legal adviser in the negotiations in Moscow.
From an affidavit sworn to by Ambassador Gaus: The plane of the Reich Foreign Minister whom I had to accompany as legal adviser in the intended negotiations arrived in Moscow at noon on 23 August 1939. On the afternoon of the same day the first conversation between Herr Von Ribbentrop and Mr. Stalin took place at which, on the German side, besides the Reich Foreign Minister, only Embassy Counsellor Hilger, as interpreter, and perhaps also Ambassador Count Schulenburg, but not myself, were present. The Reich Foreign Minister returned very satisfied from this long conference and indicated that it was as good as certain that it would result in the conclusion of the agreements desired on the part of Germany. The continuation of the conference at which the documents to be signed were to be discussed and completed, was scheduled for later in the evening. At this second conference I participated personally and so did Ambassador Count Schulenburg and Embassy Counsellor Hilger. On the Russian side the negotiations were conducted by Messrs. Stalin and Molotov, whose interpreter was Mr. Pavlov.
An agreement on the text of the Soviet-German Non-aggression Pact was reached quickly and without difficulties. Herr Von Ribbentrop himself had inserted in the preamble to the agreement which I had drafted a rather far-reaching phrase concerning the formation of friendly German-Soviet relations to which Mr. Stalin objected with the remark that the Soviet Government could not suddenly present to the public German-Soviet assurances of friendship after they had been covered with pails of manure by the Nazi Government for 6 years. Thereupon this phrase in the preamble was deleted or rather changed.
Besides the Non-aggression Pact there were negotiations for quite some time on a separate secret document, which according to my recollection was called a "secret agreement" or "secret additional agreement" and the terms of which were aimed at a demarcation of the mutual spheres of interest in the European territories situated between the two countries. Whether the expression "spheres of interest" or other such expressions were used therein, I do not recall. In the document, Germany declared herself politically disinterested in Latvia, Estonia and Finland but considered Lithuania to be part of her sphere of influence.
Regarding the political disinterest of Germany in the two Baltic countries mentioned, controversy arose when the Reich Foreign Minister, in accordance with his instructions, wanted to have a certain part of the Baltic territory exempted from this political disinterest; this, however, was rejected on the part of the Soviets, especially on account of the ice-free ports in this territory. Because of this point, which apparently had already been discussed in Ribbentrop's first conversation, the Foreign Minister had put in a call to Hitler which came through only during the second discussion, and during which, in direct conversation with Hitler, he was authorized to accept the Soviet standpoint.
A demarcation line was laid down for the Polish territory. I cannot remember whether it was drafted on a map which was to be attached to the document or only described in the document. Moreover, an agreement was reached in regard to Poland, stating approximately that the two powers would act in mutual agreement in the final settlement of questions concerning this country. It could, however, be possible that this last agreement regarding Poland was reached only when the change of the secret agreement mentioned later in Paragraph 5 was made. Regarding the Balkan States, it was confirmed that Germany had only economic interests there. The Non-aggression Pact and the secret agreement were signed rather late that same evening.
August 23, 1939: The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact is signed in Moscow; the crowning achievement of Ribbentrop's career. The importance of this pact is that it allows Adolf Hitler to attack Poland without having to worry about fighting a war on two fronts. Ribbentrop advises Hitler that Britain will not go to war in the defense of Poland.
From The Devil's Disciples by Anthony Read: While Goering was opposed to a war with the Soviets for entirely pragmatic reasons, Ribbentrop's objections were personal and emotional. He regarded the Nazi-Soviet Pact as his greatest achievement, a natural continuation of Bismarck's eastern policy, and he did not want to do anything to undermine it. Indeed, he hoped to extend it, and even to draw the Soviets into a grand alliance. His hatred for Britain was as strong as ever, and he still saw her, rather than the Soviet Union, as Germany's real enemy.
August 23, 1939 Frage von Territorien: Secret Additional Protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact:
On the occasion of the signature of the Non-aggression Pact between the German Reich and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics the undersigned plenipotentiaries of each of the two parties discussed in strictly confidential conversations the question of the boundary of their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. These conversations led to the following conclusions:
1. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and the USSR. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
2. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state the spheres of influence of Germany and the USSR shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula, and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.
3. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares; its complete political disinterestedness in these areas. This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I should like to say, first of all, that this secret protocol has been spoken about several times here in this Court. I talked very frankly during the negotiations with Stalin and Molotov, and the Russian gentlemen also used plain language with me. I described Hitler's desire that the two countries should reach a definitive agreement, and, of course, I also spoke of the critical situation in Europe. I told the Russian gentlemen that Germany would do everything to settle the situation in Poland and to settle the difficulties peacefully in order to reach a friendly agreement despite everything. However, I left no doubt that the situation was serious and that it was possible that an armed conflict might break out. That was clear anyway.
For both statesmen, Stalin as well as Hitler, it was a question of territories which both countries had lost after an unfortunate war. It is, therefore, wrong to look at these things from any other point of view. And just as Adolf Hitler was of the opinion which I expressed in Moscow, that in some form or other this problem would have to be solved, so also the Russian side saw clearly that this was the case. We then discussed what should be done on the part of the Germans and on the part of the Russians in the case of an armed conflict. A line of demarcation was agreed upon, as is known, in order that in the event of intolerable Polish provocation, or in the event of war, there should be a boundary, so that the German and Russian interests in the Polish theater could and would not collide. The well-known line was agreed upon along the line of the Rivers Vistula, San, and Bug in Polish territory. And it was agreed that in the case of conflict the territories lying to the west of these rivers would be the German sphere of interest, and those to the east would be the Russian sphere of interest. It is known that later, after the outbreak of the war, these zones were occupied on the one side by Germany and on the other side by Russian troops.
I may repeat that at that time I had the impression, both from Hitler and Stalin, that the territories--that these Polish territories and also the other territories which had been marked off in these spheres of interest, about which I shall speak shortly--that these were territories which both countries had lost after an unfortunate war. And both statesmen undoubtedly held the opinion that if these territories--if, I should like to say, the last chance for a reasonable solution of this problem was exhausted--there was certainly a justification for Adolf Hitler to incorporate these territories into the German Reich by some other procedure. Over and above that, it is also known that other spheres of interest were defined with reference to Finland, the Baltic States, and Bessarabia. This was a great settlement of the interest of two great powers providing for a peaceful solution as well as for solution by war...It was perfectly clear, and we were convinced of it, that if, due to the Polish attitude, a war broke out, Russia would assume a friendly attitude towards us.
From Khrushchev Remembers by Nikita Khrushchev: I believe the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939 was historically inevitable, given the circumstances of the time, and that in the final analysis it was profitable for the Soviet Union. It was like a gambit in chess: if we hadn't made that move, the war would have started earlier, much to our disadvantage. It was very hard for us--as Communists, as anti-fascists--to accept the idea of joining forces with Germany. It was difficult enough for us to accept the paradox ourselves. For their part, the Germans too were using the treaty as a maneuver to win time. Their idea was to divide and conquer the nations which had united against Germany in World War I and which might united against Germany again. Hitler wanted to deal with his adversaries one at a time. He was convinced that Germany had been defeated in World war I because he tried to fight on two fronts at once. The treaty he signed with us was his way of trying to limit the coming war to one front.
August 23, 1939: Hitler is delighted with the pact, and believes Stalin has just handed him the perfect opportunity to restore the Reich's "rightful possessions" without having to fight a war on two fronts. He is certain that this new treaty with the Russians will allow him to safely reclaim Danzig and take back the Polish Corridor; so certain that he tells his staff that Britain and France, without other major allies, will not go to war in such a situation... "especially over what everyone knows are, by all rights, German territories anyway."
August 23, 1939: Hitler sets the date for the invasion of Poland: Saturday, August 26, at 4:30 AM.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: As Adolf Hitler often told me, he wanted to build up an ideal social state in Europe after the solution of the problems which he had recognized as vital. He wanted to erect buildings, et cetera; that was his aim. Now, the realization of these aims defined as vital by the Fuehrer was greatly hampered by the petrified political system, which had been established in Europe and the world in general. We, the Fuehrer, and then I myself on his order--so I believe I can be the chief witness--always tried to solve these problems through diplomatic and peaceful channels. I brooded many nights over the League of Nations--day and night over Paragraph 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, but the difficulty was that the Fuehrer was not in a position, or was convinced that it was simply impossible to obtain results through negotiation--at least, without having strong armed forces to back him up.
The mistake was, I believe, that, although Paragraph 19 was a very good paragraph of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and one which we all would have been very willing to sign and follow or one which we did sign and would have followed, no means of putting it into practice existed. That gradually created a situation in which the powers, and that is quite natural, who wanted to retain this state of petrifaction, as I might call it, or status quo, opposed any steps taken by Germany, which of course, caused reaction on the part of the Fuehrer, until finally it reached the point, the very tragic point, where this great war began over a question like Danzig and the Corridor, which could have been solved comparatively easy.
August 23, 1939: Foreign Minister Beck agrees, rather late in the game, to allow passage of Soviet troops through Poland to help defend against a supposed attack by Germany.
August 24, 1939: Pope Pius XII appeals for peace.
...The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace; all can be lost with war. Let men return to mutual understanding! Let them begin negotiations anew, conferring with good will...From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: As far as I can judge, his (Ribbentrop's) attitude in church questions was very tolerant. To my knowledge, he left the Church already in the twenties, but in this respect he exercised no pressure or influence on his personnel or, rather, he did not bother about it at all. His tolerance went even so far that in 1935 he let his two eldest children have their wish and rejoin the Church. His tolerance in personal questions of religion was in line with his political attitude towards the Church. In this connection I remember Von Ribbentrop's sending the Fuehrer a fundamental memorandum in which he advocated a tolerant church policy. In the winter of 1944 he received Bishop Heckel to discuss church matters with him. On the occasion of a journey to Rome in 1941 or 1942, he paid a long visit to the Pope.
August 24, 1939: Poland and Great Britain formally sign a treaty of mutual assistance. The British Parliament reconvenes and passes the Emergency Powers Act. Royal Assent is given on the same day and the Royal Navy is ordered to war stations. Soon afterward a general mobilization begins. Hitler predicts that the Chamberlain government will fall. President Roosevelt telegrams the President of Poland:
It is, I think, well known to you that, speaking on behalf of the United States, I have exerted, and will continue to exert, every influence on behalf of peace. The rank and file of the population of every nation-large and small-want peace. They do not seek military conquest. They recognize that disputes, claims and counter-claims will always arise from time to time between nations, but that all such controversies, without exception, can be solved by a peaceful procedure, if the will on both sides exists so to do...August 24, 1939: Speech by the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons:
The measures that we have taken up to now are of a precautionary and defensive character, and to give effect to our determination to put this country in a state of preparedness to meet any emergency, but I wish emphatically to repudiate any suggestion, if such a suggestion should be made, that these measures imply an act of menace. Nothing that we have done or that we propose to do menaces the legitimate interests of Germany. It is not an act of menace to prepare to help friends to defend themselves against force. If neighbors wishing to live together peacefully in friendly relations find that one of them is contemplating apparently an aggressive act of force against another of them, and is making open preparations for action, it is not a menace for the others to announce their intention of aiding the one who is the subject of this threat...August 25, 1939: Hitler writes to Mussolini, informing him of his intent to fall upon Poland and requesting his assistance:
I have not kept you informed in detail, Duce, since I did not have an idea of the possible extent of these (German-Russian) conversations, or any assurance of the possibility of their success. The readiness on the part of the Kremlin to arrive at a reorientation of its relations with Germany, which became apparent after the departure of Litvinov, has become ever stronger in the last few weeks and has made it possible for me, after successful preparation, to send my Foreign Minister to Moscow for the conclusion of a treaty which is the most extensive non-aggression pact in existence and whose text will be made public. The pact is unconditional and includes also the obligation for consultation about all questions affecting Russia and Germany. I may tell you, Duce, that through these arrangements the favorable attitude of Russia in case of any conflict is assured, and that the possibility of the entry of Rumania into such a conflict no longer exists...August 25, 1939: Mussolini replies to Hitler's letter (above):
Concerning the agreement with Russia, I approve of that completely...As for the practical position of Italy, in case of a military collision, my point of view is as follows: If Germany attacks Poland and the conflict remains localized, Italy will afford Germany every form of political and economic assistance which is requested. If Germany attacks, and Poland's allies open a counterattack against Germany, I want to let you know in advance that it would be better if I did not take the initiative in military activities in view of the present situation of Italian war preparations, which we have repeatedly previously explained to you, Fuehrer, and to Herr von Ribbentrop.August 25, 1939: After reading Mussolini's reply, Hitler cancels his invasion of Poland scheduled for 4:30 AM the following morning.
Our intervention can, therefore, take place at once if Germany delivers to us immediately the military supplies and the raw materials to resist the attack which the French and English especially would direct against us. At our meetings the war was envisaged for after 1942 and at such time I would have been ready on land, on sea, and in the air according to the plans which had been arranged. I am also of the opinion that the purely military preparations which have already been undertaken and the others which will be entered upon in Europe and Africa will serve to immobilize important French and British forces. I consider it my implicit duty as a true friend to tell you the whole truth and inform you about the actual situation in advance. Not to do so might have unpleasant consequences for us all. This is my point of view and since within a short time I must summon the highest governmental bodies of the realm, I ask you to let me know yours as well...
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I went immediately to Hitler and asked him to stop at once the military measures, whatever they were--I was not familiar with military matters in detail--and I told him that it was perfectly clear that this meant war with England and that England could never disavow her signature. The Fuehrer reflected only a short while and then he said that was true and immediately called his military adjutant, and I believe it was Field Marshal Keitel who came, in order to call together the generals and stop the military measures which had been started. On this occasion he made a remark that we had received two pieces of bad news on one day. That was Italy and this news, and I thought it was possible that the report about Italy's attitude had become known in London immediately, whereupon the final ratification of this pact had taken place. I still remember this remark of the Fuehrer's very distinctly.
August 25, 1939: Hitler meets with British Ambassador Henderson. Hitler makes hollow offer of peace with Britain, in an effort to "buy" Britain's neutrality as it did the Soviet's. German troops begin movement towards Poland.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: On 25 August I was informed about the conversation which the Fuehrer had had with Ambassador Henderson during my absence from Germany, I believe at Berchtesgaden on 22 August. This was a very serious conversation. Henderson had brought over a letter from the British Prime Minister which stated clearly that a war between Germany and Poland would draw England into the picture. Then, early on the 25th I--the Fuehrer then answered this letter, I believe on the same day--and the answer was couched so as to mean that at the moment a solution by diplomatic means could not be expected. I discussed with the Fuehrer on the 25th this exchange of letters and asked him to consider this question once more and suggested that one more attempt might be made with reference to England. This was 25 August, a very eventful day.
In the morning a communication came from the Italian Government, according to which Italy, in the case of a conflict over Poland, would not stand at Germany's side. The Fuehrer decided then to receive Ambassador Henderson once more in the course of that day. This meeting took place at about noon of the 25th. I was present. The Fuehrer went into details and asked Henderson once more to bear in mind his urgent desire to reach an understanding with England. He described to him the very difficult situation with Poland and asked him, I believe, to take a plane and fly back to England in order to discuss this whole situation once more with the British Government. Ambassador Henderson agreed to this and I sent him, I believe in the course of the afternoon, a memo or a note verbale in which the Fuehrer put in writing his ideas for such an understanding, or rather what he had said during the meeting, so that the ambassador would be able to inform his government correctly. ....
During the course of the afternoon--I heard in the course of the day that certain military measures were being taken and then in the afternoon I received, I believe, a Reuters dispatch, at any rate it was a press dispatch--saying that the Polish-British Pact of Alliance had been ratified in London. I believe there was even a note appended that the Polish Ambassador Raczynski had been sick but had nevertheless suddenly given his signature in the Foreign Office. ....
This treaty was undoubtedly concluded afterwards. Of course, I do not know the hour and the day, but I believe it must have been on the afternoon of 25 August, and Italy's refusal had already reached us by noon; I believe in other words, it had undoubtedly been definitively decided in Rome in the morning or on the day before.
August 25, 1939: President Roosevelt once again appeals to Hitler for peace. Countless human lives can yet be saved and hope may still be restored that the nations of the modern world may even now construct the foundation for a peaceful and happier relationship, if you and the Government of the German Reich will agree to the pacific means of settlement accepted by the Government of Poland. All the world prays that Germany, too, will accept...
August 26, 1939: The British Chiefs of Staff advise the cabinet that the earliest possible date for any ultimatum to Germany is September 1. Unofficial peace envoy Dahlerus meets with Halifax again, flies back to Berlin with a letter for Goering and returns to London later that afternoon.
August 26, 1939: French Ambassador Robert Coulondre sees Hitler and appeals to him as one soldier to another. When Coulondre cites the probable fate of women and children in any war, Hitler hesitates, but Ribbentrop buttresses his Fuehrer's resolve.
August 28, 1939: Polish Foreign Minister Beck refuses to go to Berlin. Beck says he accepts the principle of direct negotiations, but towards midnight tells British Ambassador Kennard that Polish mobilization is proceeding.
August 28, 1939: Reply of the British Government to Hitler's August 23 and 25 messages:
A just settlement of these questions between Germany and Poland may open the way to world peace. Failure to reach it would ruin the hopes of better understanding between Germany and Great Britain, would bring the two countries into conflict, and might well plunge the whole world into war. Such an outcome would be a calamity without parallel in history.August 28, 1939 Passendster Weg: From a Henderson telegram to Viscount Halifax in Berlin:
Herr Hitler replied that he would be willing to negotiate, if there was a Polish Government which was prepared to be reasonable and which really controlled the country. He expatiated on the misdeeds of the Poles, referred to his generous offer of March last, said that it could not be repeated and asserted that nothing else than the return of Danzig and the whole of the Corridor would satisfy him, together with a rectification in Silesia, where 90 per cent. of the population had voted for Germany at the post-war plebiscite but where, as a result of Haller-Korfanti coup, what the Plebiscite Commission had allotted had nevertheless been grabbed by Poland. 6. I told Herr Hitler that he must choose between England and Poland. If he put forward immoderate demands there was no hope of a peaceful solution. Corridor was inhabited almost entirely by Poles. Herr Hitler interrupted me here by observing that this was only true because a million Germans had been driven out of that district since the war. I again said the choice lay with him...From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I should like to say in this connection, that in view of the critical situation between Poland and Germany, which, of course, was also known to the British Ambassador, Hitler expressed to me a certain disappointment that the British Ambassador had not returned more quickly with his answer, for the atmosphere was charged with electricity on that day. On the 28th, Henderson then had another discussion with the Fuehrer. I was also present. The answer brought back by Sir Neville Henderson from London appeared at first not very satisfactory to the Fuehrer. It contained various points which seemed unclear to the Fuehrer.
But the main point was that England announced her readiness for a wholesale solution of the existing problems between Germany and England, on the condition that the German-Polish question could be brought to a peaceful solution. In the discussion Adolf Hitler told Sir Neville Henderson that he would examine the note and would then ask him to come back...the English suggested that German-Polish direct negotiations would be the most appropriate way to reach a solution and, secondly, that such negotiations should take place as soon as possible, because England had to admit that the situation was very tense because of the frontier incidents and in every respect. Furthermore the note stated that no matter what solution might be found--I believe this was in the note--it should be guaranteed by the great powers.
August 28, 1939: Slovak Premier Father Josef Tiso invites the Germany army to occupy Slovakia.
August 29, 1939: German troops enter Slovakia on Poland's southern frontier, but Ambassadors Kennard and Nokl persuade Beck to postpone any further Polish mobilization.
August 29, 1939: Chamberlain makes a firm uncompromising speech in the House of Commons, saying:
The catastrophe is not yet upon us, but I cannot say that the danger of it has in any way receded." He warns the press to exercise restraint, and apologizes for not being able to give more than an outline of his communications with Hitler: .... The British people are said sometimes to be slow to make up their minds, but, having made them up, they do not readily let go. The issue of peace or war is still undecided, and we still will hope, and still will work, for peace; but we will abate no jot of our resolution to hold fast to the line which we have laid down for ourselves...August 29, 1939: Hitler meets with Ambassador Henderson.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: ...during the meeting on the 29th Ambassador Henderson, as I recall, asked the Fuehrer whether this was an ultimatum. The Fuehrer answered "No," that that was not an ultimatum, but rather, I believe he said, a practical proposal or a proposal arising from the situation, or something of that sort. I should like to repeat that it was a fact that the situation near the frontiers of Danzig and the Corridor during the last days of August looked, one might say, as if the guns would go off on their own unless something was done rather soon. That was the reason for the relatively short respite which was made a condition by the Fuehrer. He feared that if more time were allowed, matters would drag out and danger of war not decrease but rather increase.
August 30, 1939: Unofficial peace envoy Birger Dahlerus continues his shuttle diplomacy:
I met Goering shortly after midnight on Wednesday, and he told me the nature of the proposals made to Poland. He showed me the note. I called up Forbes to give him this information. He then told me that Ribbentrop had refused to give him the note, after he had read it through very quickly. I went to Goering immediately and told him it was impossible to treat the ambassador of an empire like Great Britain in this way...August 30, 1939: The British Foreign Office sends a message at 5:30 PM to Berlin after it receives reports of German sabotage in Poland. It says in part, "Germany must exercise complete restraint if Poland is to do so as well." Beck tells Ambassador Kennard that Polish mobilization will resume at midnight. By 4.30 PM. all Polish towns are covered with posters summoning all men up to the age of 40 to report for enlistment.
August 30, 1939: Ambassador Henderson is advised by the Home Office that Hitler's demand for the arrival of a Polish plenipotentiary that day is unreasonable. Henderson and Ribbentrop meet again, and this time come close to blows. Ribbentrop goes over Hitler's latest proposals, but Henderson claims Ribbentrop refuses to give him a copy of the text.
From the IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: I took part in (the August 30) conference as interpreter and recorder. Ambassador Henderson's knowledge of German was rather good, but not perfect. Hence it could happen that in moments of excitement he did not quite understand certain points, as is proved by an incident which occurred during the conference just mentioned; and it was not always easy for him to express himself in German; but when speaking to Germans he usually preferred to conduct these discussions in German. .... You cannot tell what goes on inside a person's mind, but I doubt whether he understood the document in all its details...while reading out the document the Foreign Minister now and then commented to Henderson about some points which might not have been quite clear. Sir Neville Henderson sat and listened to the document being read out and the comments which were made. ....
The atmosphere during that conference was, I think I can say, somewhat charged with electricity. Both participants were extremely nervous. Henderson was very uneasy; and never before, and perhaps only once afterwards, have I seen the Foreign Minister so nervous as he was during that conference. An incident which occurred during the first part of the discussion can perhaps serve to illustrate the atmosphere. The matter under discussion was the specifying of all the points Germany had against Poland and her government, and the Foreign Minister had done that in all details and concluded with the words: "So you see, Sir Neville Henderson, the situation is damned serious." When Sir Neville Henderson heard those words, "damned serious" he started up, half raised himself and pointing a warning finger at the Foreign Minister said: "You have just said 'damned.' That is not the language of a statesman in so serious a situation." .... The Foreign Minister merely said that he could receive the Polish Ambassador for negotiations or discussions only if he came to him with the necessary authority to negotiate. (Ambassador Lipski) answered a question respecting this, put to him by the Foreign Minister when Ambassador Lipski was with him with an emphatic "no." He said he had no authority. ....
When Henderson requested that the document containing the German proposals be submitted to him, the Foreign Minister said: "No, I cannot give you the document." These are the words he used. This of course was a somewhat unusual procedure because normally Sir Neville Henderson had the right to expect that a document which had just been read out would be handed to him. I myself was rather surprised at the Foreign Minister's answer and looked up because I thought I had misunderstood. I looked at the Foreign Minister and heard him say for the second time: "I cannot give you the document." But I saw that this matter caused him some discomfort and that he must have been aware of the rather difficult position in which he found himself by this answer, because an uneasy smile played on his lips when he said in a quiet voice to Sir Neville Henderson these words, "I cannot give you the document."
Then I looked at Sir Neville Henderson as I of course expected him to ask me to translate the document, but this request was not forthcoming. I looked at Henderson rather invitingly, since I wanted to translate the document, knowing how extraordinarily important a quick and complete transmission of its contents to the British Government was. If I had been asked to translate I would have done so quite slowly, almost at dictation speed, in order to enable the British Ambassador in this roundabout way to take down not merely the general outline of the German proposal but all its details and transmit them to his Government. But Sir Neville Henderson did not react even to my glance so that the discussion soon came to an end and events took their course.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: On the 30th Hitler awaited word from the Polish negotiator. This, however, did not come, but, I believe, on the evening of the 30th the news arrived that Poland had ordered, although not announced, general mobilization. I believe it was not announced until the next morning. This, of course, further aggravated the situation enormously. ....
In the meantime, Hitler had prepared the proposals which he wanted to hand to a Polish negotiator who, as he had expressly promised Sir Neville Henderson, would be able to negotiate with Germany on the basis of complete equality. Not until shortly before midnight, or at least in the late evening, a call came through saying that the British Ambassador wanted to transmit a communication from his government. This meeting, I believe, was then postponed once more; at any rate at midnight on 30 August the well-known conversation between Henderson and me took place. ....
It is perfectly clear that at that moment all of us were nervous, that is true. The British Ambassador was nervous and so was I. I should like to and must mention here the fact that the British Ambassador had had on the day before a minor scene with the Fuehrer which might have ended seriously. I succeeded in changing the subject. Therefore, there was also a certain tension between the British Ambassador and myself. However, I intentionally received the British Ambassador composedly and calmly, and accepted his communication. I hoped that this communication would, In the last moment, contain his announcement of a Polish negotiator. However, this did not happen. Rather, Sir Neville Henderson told me:
1. That his government could not recommend this mode of procedure, despite the tense situation, which had been aggravated still more by the Polish total mobilization; rather the British Government recommended that the German Government use diplomatic channels;
2. That, if the German Government would submit the same proposals to the British Government, the British Government would be ready to exert their influence in Warsaw in order to find a solution, as far as these suggestions appeared to be reasonable. In view of the whole situation this was a very difficult answer because, as I said, the situation was extremely tense and the Fuehrer had been waiting since the day before for a Polish emissary. I, in turn, feared also that the guns would go off by themselves unless a solution or something else came quickly, as I have said. I then read to Henderson the proposals given to me by the Fuehrer.
I should like to state here once more under oath that the Fuehrer had expressly forbidden me to let these proposals out of my hands. He told me that I might communicate to the British Ambassador only the substance of them, if I thought it advisable. I did a little more than that; I read all the proposals, from the beginning to the end, to the British Ambassador. I did this because I still hoped that the British Government wanted to exert their influence in Warsaw and assist in a solution. But here too I must state frankly that from my talk with the British Ambassador on 30 August, from his whole attitude, which Minister Schmidt also described to a certain extent yesterday, as well as from the substance of the communication of the British Government, I got the impression that England at this moment was not quite prepared to live up to the situation and, let us say, to do her utmost to bring about a peaceful solution. ....
After my conversation with the British Ambassador I reported to the Fuehrer. I told him it had been a serious conversation. I told him also that in pursuance of his instructions I had not handed the memorandum to Sir Neville Henderson despite the latter's request. But I had the impression that the situation was serious and I was convinced that the British guarantee to Poland was in force. That had been my very definite impression from this conversation.
August 30, 1939: Hitler agrees to Britain's request for a 24-hour extension to permit a Polish negotiator to meet with von Ribbentrop. From the official reply of the British Government to Hitler's letter of August 29, handed by Ambassador Henderson to von Ribbentrop at midnight:
His Majesty's Government repeat that they reciprocate the German Government's desire for improved relations, but it will be recognized that they could not sacrifice the interests of other friends in order to obtain that improvement. They fully understand that the German Government cannot sacrifice Germany's vital interests, but the Polish Government are in the same position and His Majesty's Government believe that the vital interests of the two countries are not incompatible...August 31, 1939: The British fleet mobilizes; Civilian evacuations begin from London.
August 31, 1939: At half past noon, Hitler issues a Directive for the conduct of the war:
1. Now that all the political possibilities of disposing by peaceful means of a situation which is intolerable for Germany are exhausted, I have determined on a solution by force. 2. The attack on Poland is to be carried out. Date of attack: September 1, 1939. Time of attack: 4:45 AM.From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Then, in the course of the 31st the Fuehrer waited the whole day to see whether or not some sort of Polish negotiator would come or whether a new communication would come from the British Government. We have heard here about Reich Marshal Goering's intervention, how he informed Mr. Dahlerus of the contents of this note in every detail. There can thus be no doubt that during the course of that night, at the latest in the morning of the 31st the precise proposals of the Reich Government were in the hands of both the London Government and the Warsaw Government.
On the 31st the Fuehrer waited the whole day and I am convinced, and I want to state it very clearly here, that he hoped that something would be done by England. Then in the course of the 31st the Polish Ambassador came to see me. But it is known that he had no authority to do anything, to enter into negotiations or even to receive proposals of any sort. I do not know whether the Fuehrer would have authorized me on the 31st to hand proposals of this sort to him, but I think it is possible. But the Polish Ambassador was not authorized to receive them, as he expressly told me.
August 31, 1939: The British Ambassador in Germany, Henderson, instead of informing the Poles of Hitler's proposals and the granting of an extension, tries to dissuades Lipski from meeting with von Ribbentrop at all. Henderson, in his Final Report, writes "I suggested that he (Lipski) recommend to his government an interview between Marshal Smigly-Rydz and Goering. I felt obliged to add that I could not conceive of the success of any negotiations if they were conducted by Ribbentrop."
A telegram from Sir Howard Kennard, British Ambassador in Warsaw to Lord Halifax states that Polish Foreign Minister Beck has informed him that Lipski has been forbidden to receive any documents from von Ribbentrop. Lipski telegrams Beck that French Ambassador Coulondre has told him that Henderson has been informed of Germany's intention to wait until midnight August 31st. Lipski writes: "Coulondre advises me to inform the German government, only after midnight, that the Polish Embassy was always at its reach."
August 31, 1939: Polish Ambassador Lipski meets with Ribbentrop at 6:15 PM. A telegram to Beck from Lipski informs the Foreign Minister that I have met with von Ribbentrop.
I have obeyed instructions received and told him that I was not empowered to negotiate. Mr. von Ribbentrop repeated that he believed I had such powers. He told me that he would report my visit to the Chancellor.Kennard, the British Ambassador in Poland, telegrams Halifax in London:
...I asked M. Beck what steps he proposed to take in order to establish contact with the German Government. He said he would now instruct M. Lipski to seek an interview either with the Minister for Foreign Affairs or State Secretary in order to say Poland had accepted British proposals. I urged him to do this without delay...August 31, 1939: At 9 PM all radio stations in Germany interrupt their schedules to broadcast Hitler's 16 point plan for Poland. It includes provisions for: the annexation of Danzig by Germany; a corridor across the Danzig Corridor; a plebiscite to be held in the Corridor area in 12 months time, and a later exchange of populations. The port of Gdynia is to be recognized as Polish, thus leaving Poland with access to the sea. It will not be delivered to the Polish ambassador until September 1.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I know only that the Fuehrer--that the proposals which I had read to the British Ambassador in the night of the 30th were published by broadcast, as I believe, on the evening of the 31st. The reaction of the Warsaw radio, I remember this reaction exactly, was unfortunately such as to sound like a veritable battle-cry in answer to the German proposals which, as I heard, had been characterized by Henderson as reasonable. I believe they were characterized by the Polish radio as an insolence, and the Germans were spoken of as Huns or the like.
I still remember that. At any rate, shortly after the announcement of these proposals a very sharp negative answer came from Warsaw. I assume that it was the answer which persuaded the Fuehrer in the night of the 31st to issue the order to march. I, for my part, can say only that I went to the Reich Chancellery, and the Fuehrer told me that he had given the order and that nothing else could be done now, or something to this effect, and that things were now in motion. Thereupon I said to the Fuehrer merely, "I wish you good luck." I might also mention that the outbreak of these hostilities was the end of years of efforts on the part of Adolf Hitler to bring about friendship with England.
August 31, 1939: The Supreme Soviet ratifies the German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. A huge banquet is held in Ribbentrop's honor at the Kremlin in Moscow. Ribbentrop, Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan and Beria are all seated at the head table. Stalin toasts Hitler's health. Ribbentrop will later drive some of his peers to distraction when he repeatedly relates how he was treated as 'an old party comrade' by the communists. The party ends at 3:00 AM, and most of the participants are sleeping it off as the momentous events of their "diplomacy" change the world forever.
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