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The Nuremberg Trials:
Judgement - The Invasion of Denmark and Norway


Nuremberg Trials: Table of Contents | Photographs | Defendants & Verdicts


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The PRESIDENT: Now I shall ask M. Falco to continue the reading of the judgment.

M. Falco:

The aggressive war against Poland was but the beginning. The aggression of Nazi Germany quickly spread from country to country. In point of time the first two countries to suffer were Denmark and Norway.

On the 31st May, 1939, a Treaty of Non-Aggression was made between Germany and Denmark, and signed by the defendant Ribbentrop. It was there solemnly stated that the parties to the Treaty were "firmly resolved to maintain peace between Denmark and Germany under all circumstances."Nevertheless, Germany invaded Denmark on the 9th April, 1940.

On the 2nd September, 1939, after the outbreak of war with Poland, Germany sent a solemn assurance to Norway in these terms:

"The German Reich Government is determined in view of the friendly relations which exist between Norway and Germany, under no circumstance to prejudice the inviolability and integrity of Norway, and to respect the territory of the Norwegian State. In making this declaration the Reich Government naturally expects, on its side, that Norway will observe an unimpeachable neutrality towards the Reich and will not tolerate any breaches of Norwegian neutrality by any third party which might occur. Should the attitude of the Royal Norwegian Government differ from this so that any such breach of neutrality by a third party occurs, the Reich Government would then obviously be compelled to safeguard the interests of the Reich in such a way as the resulting situation might dictate."

On the 9th April, 1940, in pursuance of her plan of campaign, Norway was invaded by Germany.

The idea of attacking Norway originated, it appears, with the defendants Raeder and Rosenberg. On the 3rd October, 1939, Raeder prepared a memorandum on the subject of "gaining bases in Norway," and amongst the questions discussed was the question: "Can bases be gained by military force against Norway's will, if it is impossible to carry this out without fighting' " Despite this fact, three days later, further assurances were given to Norway by Germany, which stated:

"Germany has never had any conflicts of interest or even points of controversy with the Northern States, and neither has she any to-day."

Three days later again, the defendant Doenitz prepared a memorandum on the same subject, namely, bases in Norway, and suggested the establishment of a base in Trondheim with an alternative of supplying fuel in Narvik. At the same time the defendant Raeder was in correspondence with Admiral Karls, who pointed out to him the importance of an occupation of the Norwegian coast by Germany. On the 10th October, Raeder reported to Hitler the disadvantages to Germany which an occupation by the British would have. In the months of October and November Raeder continued to work on the possible occupation of Norway, in conjunction with the "Rosenberg Organisation." The "Rosenberg Organisation" was the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the NSDAP, and Rosenberg as Reichsleiter was in charge of it. Early in December, Quisling, the notorious Norwegian traitor, visited Berlin and was seen by the defendants Rosenberg and Raeder. He put forward a plan for a coup d'etat in Norway. On the 12th December, the defendant Raeder and the naval staff, together with the defendants Keitel and Jodl, had a conference with Hitler, when Raeder reported on his interview with Quisling, and set out Quisling's views. On the 16th December, Hitler himself interviewed Quisling on all these matters. In the report of the activities of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the NSDAP for the years 1933-1943, under the heading of "Political preparations for the military occupation of Norway," it is stated that at the interview with Quisling Hitler said that he would prefer a neutral attitude on the part of Norway as well as the whole of Scandinavia, as he did not desire to extend the theatre of war, or to draw other nations into the conflict. If the enemy attempted to extend the war he would be compelled to guard himself against that undertaking; however he promised Quisling financial support, and assigned to a special military staff the examination of the military questions involved.

On the 27th January, 1940, a memorandum was prepared by the defendant Keitel regarding the plans for the invasion of Norway. On the 28th February, 1940, the defendant Jodl entered in his diary:

"I proposed first to the Chief of OKW and then to the Fuehrer that "Case Yellow " (that is the operation against the Netherlands) and Weser Exercise (that is the operation against Norway and Denmark) must be prepared in such a way that they will be independent of one another as regard both time and forces employed."

On the 1st March Hitler issued a directive regarding the Weser Exercise which contained the words:

"The development of the situation in Scandinavia requires the making of all preparations for the occupation of Denmark and Norway by a part of the German Armed Forces. This operation should prevent British encroachment on Scandinavia and the Baltic; further, it should guarantee our ore base in Sweden and give our Navy and Air Force a wider start line against Britain . . . The crossing of the Danish border and the landings in Norway must take place simultaneously . . . It is most important that the Scandinavian States as well as the Western opponents should be taken by surprise by our measures."

On the 24th March, the naval operation orders for the Weser Exercise were issued, and on the 30th March the defendant Doenitz as Commander-in-Chief of U-boats issued his operational order for the occupation of Denmark and Norway. On the 9th April, 1940, the German forces invaded Norway and Denmark.

From this narrative it is clear that as early as October, 1939, the question of invading Norway was under consideration. The defense that has been . made here is that Germany was compelled to attack Norway to forestall an Allied invasion, and her action was therefore preventive.

It must be remembered that preventive action in foreign territory is justified only in case of "an instant and overwhelming necessity for self-defense leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation." (The Caroline Case, Moore's Digest of International Law, II, 412)". How widely the view was held in influential German circles that the Allies intended to occupy Norway cannot be determined with exactitude. Quisling asserted that the Allies would intervene in Norway with the tacit consent of the Norwegian Government. The German Legation at Oslo disagreed with this view, although the Naval Attache at that Legation shared it.

The War Diary of the German Naval Operations Staff for 13th January 1940, stated at the Chief of the naval Operations Staff thought that the most favourable solution would be the maintenance of the neutrality of Norway, but he harboured the firm conviction that England intended to occupy Norway in the near future relying on the tacit agreement of the Norwegian Government.

The directive of Hitler issued on 1st March, 1940, for the attack on Denmark and Norway stated that the oration "should prevent British encroachment on Scandinavia and the Baltic."

It is, however, to be remembered that the defendant Raeder's memorandum of the 3rd October, 1939, makes no reference to forestalling the Allies, but it is based upon "the aim of improving our strategical and operational position."

The memorandum itself is headed "Gaining of Bases in Norway." The same observation applies mutatis mutandis to the memorandum of the defendant Doenitz of 9th October, 1939.

Furthermore, on the 13th March, the defendant Jodl recorded in his diary:

"Fuehrer does not give order yet for ' W ' (Weser Exercise). He is still looking for an excuse." (Justification?)

On the 14th March, 1940, he again wrote:

"Fuehrer has not yet decided what reason to give for 'Weser Exercise '."

On the 21st March, 1940, he recorded the misgivings of Task Force XXI about the long interval between building up readiness positions and the close of the diplomatic negotiations, and added:

"Fuehrer rejects any earlier negotiations, as otherwise calls for help go out to England and America. If resistance is put up it must be ruthlessly broken."

On 2nd April he records that all the preparations are completed, on 4th April the Naval Operation Order was issued; and on the 9th April, the invasion was begun.

From all this it is clear that when the plans for an attack on Norway were being made, they were not made for the purpose of forestalling an imminent Allied landing, but, at ,the most, that they might prevent an Allied occupation at some future date.

When the final orders for the German invasion of Norway were given the diary of the Naval Operations Staff for 23rd March, 1940, records:

"A mass encroachment by the English into Norwegian territorial waters . . . is not to be expected at the present time."

And Admiral Assmann's entry for 26th Match says:

"British landing in Norway not considered serious."

Documents which were subsequently captured by the Germans are relied on to show that the Allied plan to occupy harbours and airports in Western Norway was a definite plan, although in all points considerably behind the German plans under which the invasion was actually carried out. These documents indicate that an altered plan had been finally agreed upon on 20th March, 1940, a convoy should leave England on 5th April, and that mining in Norwegian waters would begin the same day; and that on 5th April the sailing time had been postponed until 8th April. But these plans were not the cause of the German invasion of Norway. Norway was occupied by Germany to afford her bases from which a more effective attack on England and France might be made, pursuant to plans prepared long in advance of the Allied plans which are now relied on to support the argument of self-defense.

It was further argued that Germany alone could decide, in accordance with the reservations made by many of the Signatory Powers at the time of the conclusion of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, whether preventive action was a necessity, and that in making her decision final judgment was conclusive. But whether action taken under the claim of seIf-defense was in fact aggressive or defensive must ultimately be subject to investigation and adjudication if international law is ever to be enforced.

No suggestion is made by the defendants that there was any plan by any belligerent, other than Germany, to occupy Denmark. No excuse for that aggression has ever been offered.

As the German armies entered Norway and Denmark, German memoranda were handed to the Norwegian and Danish Governments which gave the assurance that the German troops did not come as enemies, that they arid not intend to make use of the points occupied by German troops as bases for operations against England, as long as they were not forced to do so by measures taken by England and France, and that they had come to protect the North against proposed occupation of Norwegian strong points by English-French forces.

The memoranda added that Germany had no intention of infringing the territorial integrity and political independence of the Kingdom of Norway then or in the future. Nevertheless, on the 3rd June, 1940, a German Naval memorandum discussed the use to be made of Norway and Denmark, and put forward one solution for consideration, that the territories of Denmark and Norway acquired during ,the course of the war should continue to be occupied and organised so that they could in the future be considered as German possessions.

In the light of all the available evidence it is impossible to accept the contention that the invasions of Denmark and Norway were defensive, and in the opinion of the Tribunal they were acts of aggressive war.


Sources: The Avalon Project

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