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Nuremberg Trial Judgements: Joachim von Ribbentrop

Ribbentrop is indicted under all four counts. He joined the Nazi Party in 1932. By 1933 he had been made Foreign Policy Adviser to Hitler, and in the same year the representative of the Nazi Party on Foreign Policy, In 1934 he was appointed Delegate for Disarmament Questions, and in 1935 Minister Plenipotentiary at Large, a capacity in which he negotiated the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935 and the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936. On 11th August, 1936, he was appointed Ambassador to England. On 4th February, 1938, he succeeded von Neurath as Reichsminister for Foreign Affairs as part of the general reshuffle which accompanied the dismissal of von Fritsch and von Blomberg.

Crimes against Peace

Ribbentrop was not present at the Hoszbach Conference held on 5th November, 1937, but on 2nd January, 1938, while still Ambassador to England, he sent a memorandum to Hitler indicating his opinion that a change in the status quo in the East in the German sense could only be carried out by force and suggesting methods to prevent England and France from intervening in a European war fought to bring about such a change. When Ribbentrop became Foreign Minister Hitler told him that Germany still had four problems to solve, Austria, Sudetenland, Memel and Danzig, and mentioned the possibility of " some sort of a showdown " or " military settlement " for their solution.

On 12th February, 1938, Ribbentrop attended the conference between Hitler and Schuschnigg at which Hitler, by threats of invasion, forced Schuschnigg to grant a series of concessions designed to strengthen the Nazis in Austria, including the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security and Interior, with control over the Police. Ribbentrop was in London when the occupation of Austria was actually carried out and, on the basis of information supplied him by Goering, informed the British Government that Germany had not presented Austria with an ultimatum, but had intervened in Austria only to prevent civil war. On 13th March, 1938, Ribbentrop signed the law incorporating Austria into the German Reich.

Ribbentrop participated in the aggressive plans against Czechoslovakia. Beginning in March, 1938, he was in close touch with the Sudeten German Party and gave them instructions which had the effect of keeping the Sudeten German question a live issue which might serve as an excuse for the attack which Germany was planning against Czechoslovakia. In August, 1938, he participated in a conference for the purpose of obtaining Hungarian support in the event of a war with Czechoslovakia. After the Munich Pact he continued to bring diplomatic pressure with the object of occupying the remainder of Czechoslovakia. He was instrumental in inducing the Slovaks to proclaim their indepedence. He was present at the conference of 14th-15th March, 1939, at which Hitler, by threats of invasion, compelled President Hacha to consent to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. After the German troops had marched in Ribbentrop signed the law establishing a Protectorate over Bohemia and Moravia.

Ribbentrop played a particularly significant role in the diplomatic activity which led up to the attack on Poland. He participated in a conference held on 12th August, 1939, for the purpose of obtaining Italian support if the attack should lead to a general European war. Ribbentrop discussed the German demands with respect to Danzig and the Polish Corridor with the British Ambassador in the period from 25th August to 30th August, 1939, when he knew that the German plans to attack Poland had merely been temporarily postponed in an attempt to induce the British to abandon their guarantee to the Poles. The way in which he carried out these discussions makes it clear that he did not enter them in good faith in an attempt to reach a settlement of the difficulties between Germany and Poland.

Ribbentrop was advised in advance of the attack on Norway and Denmark and of the attack on the Low Countries, and prepared the official Foreign Office memoranda attempting to justify these aggressive actions.

Ribbentrop attended the conference on 20th January, 1941, at which Hitler and Mussolini discussed the proposed attack on Greece, and the conference in January, 1941, at which Hitler obtained from Antonescu permission for German troops to go through Rumania for this attack. On 25th March, 1941, when Yugoslavia adhered to the Axis Tripartite Pact Ribbentrop had assured Yugoslavia that Germany would respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On 27th March, 1941, he attended the meeting, held after the coup d'etat in Yugoslavia, at which plans were made to carry out Hitler's announced intention to destroy Yugoslavia.

Ribbentrop attended a conference in May, 1941 with Hitler and Antonescu relating to Rumanian participation in the attack on the U.S.S.R He also consulted with Rosenberg in the preliminary planning for the political exploitation of Soviet territories and in July, 1941, after the outbreak of war, urged Japan to attack the Soviet Union.

War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

Ribbentrop participated in a meeting of 6th June, 1944, at which it was agreed to start a programme under which Allied aviators carrying out machine gun attacks on the civilian population should be lynched. In December, 1944 Ribbentrop was informed of the plans to murder one of the French Generals held as a prisoner of war and directed his subordinates to see that the details were worked out in such a way as to prevent its detection by the protecting powers. Ribbentrop is also responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity because of his activities with respect to occupied countries and Axis satellites. The top German official in both Denmark and Vichy France was a Foreign Office representative, and Ribbentrop is therefore responsible for the general economic and political policies put into effect in the occupation of those countries. He urged the Italians to adopt a ruthless occupation policy in Yugoslavia and Greece.

He played an important part in Hitler's “final solution” of the Jewish question. In September, 1942 he ordered the German diplomatic representatives accredited to various Axis satellites to hasten the deportation of Jews to the East. In June, 1942 the German Ambassador to Vichy requested Laval to turn over 50,000 Jews for deportation to the East. On 25th February, 1943, Ribbentrop protested to Mussolini against Italian slowness in deporting Jews from the Italian occupation zone of France. On 17th April, 1943, he took part in a conference between Hitler and Horthy on the deportation of Jews from Hungary and informed Horthy that the " Jews must either be exterminated or taken to concentration camps." At the same conference Hitler had likened the Jews to “tuberculosis bacilli” and said if they did not work they were to be shot.

Ribbentrop's defence to the charges made against him is that Hitler made all the important decisions and that he was such a great admirer and faithful follower of Hitler that he never questioned Hitler's repeated assertions that he wanted peace or the truth of the reasons that Hitler gave in explaining aggressive action. The Tribunal does not consider this explanation to be true. Ribbentrop participated in all of the Nazi aggressions from the occupation of Austria to the invasion of the Soviet Union. Although he was personally concerned with the diplomatic rather than the military aspect of these actions, his diplomatic efforts were so closely connected with war that he could not have remained unaware of the aggressive nature of Hitler's actions. In the administration of territories over which Germany acquired control by illegal invasion Ribbentrop also assisted in carrying out criminal policies, particularly those involving the extermination of the Jews. there is abundant evidence, moreover, that Ribbentrop was in complete sympathy with all the main tenets of the National Socialist creed, and that his collaboration with Hitler and with other defendants in the commission of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity was wholehearted. It was because Hitler's policy and plans coincided with his own ideas that Ribbentrop served him so willingly to the end.


The Tribunal finds that Ribbentrop is guilty on all four counts.

Sources: The Avalon Project