THE PRESIDENT: I will now ask M. Donnedieu de Vabres
to continue the reading of the judgment.
THE INVASION OF AUSTRIA
M. DONNEDIEU DE VABRES:
The invasion of Austria was a pre-meditated aggressive
step in furthering the plan to wage aggressive wars against other countries.
As a result Germany's flank was protected, that of Czechoslovakia being
greatly weakened. The first step had been taken in the seizure of "
Lebensraum"; many new divisions of trained fighting men had been
acquired; and with The seizure of foreign exchange reserves, the re-armament
programme had been greatly strengthened.
On the 21st May, 1935, Hitler announced in the Reichstag
that Germany did not intend either to attack Austria or to interfere
in her internal affairs. On the 1st May, 1936, he publicly coupled Czechoslovakia
with Austria in his avowal of peaceful intentions; and so late as the
11th July, 1936, he recognised by treaty the full sovereignty of Austria.
Austria was in fact seized by Germany in the month
of March, 1938. For a number of years before that date, the National
Socialists in Germany had been cooperating with ,the National Socialists
of Austria with the ultimate object of incorporating Austria into the
German Reich. The Putsch of July 25th, 1934, which resulted in the assassination
of Chancellor Dollfuss, had the seizure of Austria as its object; but
the Putsch failed, with the consequence that the National Socialist
Party was outlawed in Austria. On the 11th July, 1936, an agreement
was entered into between the two countries, Article 1 of which stated:
" The German Government recognises the full sovereignty
of the Federated State of Austria in the spirit of the pronouncements
of the German Fuehrer and Chancellor of the 21st May, 1935."
Article 2 declared:
" Each of the two Governments regards the inner
political order (including the question of Austrian National Socialism)
obtaining in the other country as an internal affair of the other country,
upon which it will exercise neither direct nor indirect influence."
The National Socialist movement in Austria however
continued its illegal activities under cover of secrecy; and the National
Socialists of Germany gave the Party active support. The resulting "
incidents " were seized upon by the German National Socialists
as an excuse for interfering in Austrian affairs. After the conference
of the 5th November, 1937, these " incidents " rapidly multiplied.
The relationship between the two countries steadily worsened, and finally
the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg was persuaded by the defendant von
Papen and others to seek a conference with Hitler, which took place
at Berchtesgaden on the 12th February, 1938. The defendant Keitel was
present at the conference, and Dr. Schuschnigg was threatened by Hitler
with an immediate invasion of Austria. Schuschnigg finally agreed to
grant a political amnesty to various Nazis convicted of crime, and to
appoint the Nazi Seyss-Inquart as Minister of the Interior and Security
with control of the Police. On the 9th March, 1938, in an attempt to
preserve the independence of his country, Dr. Schuschnigg decided to
hold a plebiscite on the question of Austrian independence, which was
fixed for the 13th March, 1938. Hitler, two days later, sent an ultimatum
to Schuschnigg that the plebiscite must be withdrawn. In the afternoon
and evening of the 11th March, 1938, the defendant Goering made a series
of demands upon the Austrian Government, each backed up by ,the threat
of invasion. After Schuschnigg had agreed to the cancellation of the
plebiscite, another demand was put forward that Schuschnigg must resign,
and that the defendant Seyss-Inquart should be appointed Chancellor.
In consequence, Schuschnigg resigned, and President Miklas, after at
first refusing ,to appoint Seyss-Inquart as Chancellor, gave way and
Meanwhile Hitler had given the final order for the
German troops to cross the border at dawn an the 12th of March and instructed
Seyss-Inquart to use formations of Austrian National Socialists to depose
Miklas and to seize control of the Austrian Government. After the order
to march had been given to the German troops, Goering telephoned the
German Embassy in Vienna and dictated a telegram in which he wished
Seyss-Inquart to send to Hitler to justify the military action which
had already been ordered.
" The provisional Austrian Government, which,
after the dismissal of the Schuschnigg Government, considers its task
to establish peace and order in Austria, sends to the German Government
the urgent request to support it in its task and to help it to prevent
bloodshed. For this purpose it asks the German Government to send German
troops as soon as possible."
Keppler, an official of the German Embassy, replied:
" Well, SA and SS are marching through the streets,
but everything is quiet."
After some further discussion, Goering stated:
" Please show him (Seyss-Inquart) the text of
the telegram, and do tell him that we are asking him- well, he doesn't
even have to send the telegram. All he needs to do is to say 'Agreed'."
Seyss-Inquart never sent the telegram; he never even
telegraphed " Agreed."
It appears that as soon as he was appointed Chancellor,
some time after 10 p.m., he called Keppler and told him to call up Hitler
and transmit his protests against the occupation. This action outraged
the defendant Goering, because "it would disturb the rest of the
Fuehrer, who wanted to go to Austria the next day." At 11.15 p.m.
an official in the Ministry of Propaganda in Berlin telephoned the German
Embassy in Vienna and was told by Keppler: " Tell the General Field
Marshal that Seyss-Inquart agrees."
At daybreak on the 12th March, 1938, German troops
marched into Austria, and met with no resistance. It was announced in
the German press that Seyss-Inquart had been appointed the successor
to Schuschnigg, and the telegram which Goering had suggested, but which
was never sent, was quoted to show that Seyss-Inquart had requested
the presence of German troops to prevent disorder. On the 13th March,
1938, a law was passed for the reunion of Austria in the German Reich.
Seyss-Inquart demanded that President Miklas should sign this law, but
he refused to do so, and resigned his office. He was succeeded by Seyss-Inquart,
who signed the law in the name of Austria. This law was then adopted
as a law of the Reich by a Reich Cabinet decree issued the same day,
and signed by Hitler and the defendants Goering, Frick, von Ribbentrop
It was contended before the Tribunal that the annexation
of Austria was justified by the strong desire expressed in many quarters
for the union of Austria and Germany; that there were many matters in
common between the two peoples that made this union desirable; and that
in the result the object was achieved without bloodshed.
These matters, even if true, are really immaterial
for the facts plainly prove that the methods employed to achieve the
object were those of an aggressor. The ultimate factor was the armed
might of Germany ready to be used if any resistance was encountered.
Moreover, none of these considerations appear from the Hossbach account
of the meetings of the 5th November, 1937, to have been the motives
which actuated Hitler; on the contrary, all the emphasis is there laid
on the advantage to be gained by Germany in her military strength by
the annexation of Austria.