The Nuremberg Trials: Judgement - The Seizure of Czechoslovakia
The conference of the 5th November, 1937, made it quite plain that the seizure of Czechoslovakia by Germany had been definitely decided upon. The only question remaining was the selection of the suitable moment to do it. On the 4th March, 1938, the defendant Ribbentrop wrote to the defendant Keitel with regard to a suggestion made to Ribbentrop by the Hungarian Ambassador in Berlin, that possible war aims against Czechoslovakia should be discussed between the German and Hungarian armies. In the course of this letter Ribbentrop said:
"I have many doubts about such negotiations. 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."
On the 11th March, 1938, Goering made two separate statements to M. Mastny, the Czechoslovak Minister in Berlin, assuring him that the developments then taking place in Austria would in no way have any detrimental influence on the relations between the German Reich and Czechoslovakia, and emphasised the continued earnest endeavour on the part of the Germans to improve those mutual relations. On the 12th March, Goering asked M. Mastny to call on him, and repeated these assurances.
This design to keep Czechoslovakia quiet whilst Austria was absorbed was a typical manoeuvre on the part of the defendant Goering, which he was to repeat later in the case of Poland, when he made the most strenuous efforts to isolate Poland in the impending struggle. On the same day, the 12th March, the defendant von Neurath spoke with M. Mastny, and assured him on behalf of Hitler that Germany still considered herself bound by the German-Czechoslovak Arbitration Convention concluded at Locarno in October, 1935.
The evidence shows that after the occupation of Austria by the German Army on the 12th March, and the annexation of Austria on the 13th March, Conrad Henlein, who was the leader of the Sudeten German party in Czechoslovakia, saw Hitler in Berlin on the 28th March. On the following day, at a conference in Berlin, when Ribbentrop was present with Henlein, the general situation was discussed, and later the defendant Jodl recorded in his diary:
"After the annexation of Austria the Fuehrer mentions that there is no hurry to solve the Czech question, because Austria has to be digested first. Nevertheless, preparations for Case Gruen (that is, the plan against Czechoslovakia) will have to be carried out energetically; they will have to be newly prepared on the basis of the changed strategic position because of the annexation of Austria."
On the 21st April, 1938, a discussion took place between Hitler and the defendant Keitel with regard to " Case Gruen ", showing quite clearly that the preparations for the attack on Czechoslovakia were being fully considered. On the 28th May, 1938, Hitler ordered that preparations should be made for military action against Czechoslovakia by the 2nd October, and from then onwards the plan to invade Czechoslovakia was constantly under review. On the 30th May, 1938, a directive signed by Hitler declared his " unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future."
In June, 1938, as appears from a captured document taken from the files of the SD in Berlin, an elaborate plan for the employment of the SD in Czechoslovakia had been proposed. This plan provided that " the SD follow, if possible, immediately after the leading troops, and take upon themselves the duties similar to their tasks in Germany .... "
Gestapo officials were assigned to co-operate with the SD in certain operations. Special agents were to be trained beforehand to prevent sabotage, and these agents were to be notified " before the attack in due time .... in order to give them the possibility to hide themselves, avoid arrest and deportation .... "
"At the beginning, guerrilla or partisan warfare is to be expected, therefore weapons are necessary .... "
Files of information were to be compiled with notations as follows: " To arrest " .... " To liquidate " ...." To confiscate " .... " To deprive of passport" etc.
The plan provided for the temporary division of the country into larger and smaller territorial units, and considered various " suggestions ", as they were termed, for the incorporation into the German Reich of the inhabitants and districts of Czechoslovakia. The final " suggestion " included the whole country together with Slovakia and Carpathian Russia, with a population of nearly is millions.
The plan was modified in some respects in September after the Munich Conference, but the fact that the plan existed in such exact detail and was couched in such war-like language indicated a calculated design to resort to force.
On the 31st Augt, 1938, Hitler approved a memorandum by Jodl dated 24th Augt, 1938, concerning the timing of the order for the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the question of defence measures. This memorandum contained the following:
"Operation Gruen will be set in motion by means of an 'incident' in Czechoslovakia, which will give Germany provocation for military intervention. The fixing of the exact time for this incident is of the utmost importance."
These facts demonstrate that the occupation of Czechoslovakia had been planned in detail long before the Munich conference.
In the month of September, 1938, the conferences and talks with military readers continued. In view of the extradordinarily critical situation which had arisen, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, flew to Munich and then went to Berchtesgaden to see Hitler. On the 22nd September Mr. Chamberlain met Hitler for further discussions at Bad Godesberg. On the 26th September, 1938, Hitler said in a speech in Berlin, with reference to his conversation:
"I assured him, moreover, and I repeat it here, that when this problem is solved there will be no more territorial problems for Germany in Europe; and I further assured him that from the moment when Czechoslovakia solves its other problems, that is to say, when the Czechs have come to an arrangement with their other minorities, peacefully and with out oppression, I will be no longer interested in the Czech State, and that as far as I am concerned I will guarantee it. We don't want any Czechs."
On the 29th September, 1938, after a conference between Hitler and Mussolini and the British and French Prime Ministers in Munich, the Munich Pact was signed, by which Czechoslovakia was required to acquiesce in the cession of the Sudetenland to Germany. The " piece of paper " which the British Prime Minister brought back to London, signed by himself and Hitler, expressed the hope that for the future Britain and Germany might live without war. That Hitler never intended to adhere to the Munich Agreement is shown by the fact that a little later he asked the defendant Keitel for information with regard to the military force which in his opinion would be required to break all Czech resistance in Bohemia and Moravia. Keitel gave this reply on the 11th October 1938. On the 21st October, 1938, a directive was issued by Hitler, and countenacened by the defendant Keitel, to the armed forces on their future tasks, which stated:
"Liquidation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia. It must be possible to smash at any time the remainder of Czechoslovakia if her policy should become hostile towards Germany."
On the 14th March, 1939, the Czech President Hacha and his Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky came to Berlin at the suggestion of Hitler and attended a meeting at which the defendants Ribbentrop, Goering and Keitel were present, with others. The proposal was made to Hacha that if he would sign an agreement consenting to the incorporation of the Czech people in the German Reich at once, Bohemia and Moravia would be saved from destruction. He was informed that German troops had already received orders to march" and that any resistance would be broken with physical force. The defendant Goering added the threat that he would destroy Prague completely from the air. Faced by this dreadful alternative, Hacha and his Foreign Minister put their signatures to the necessary agreement at 4.30 in the morning, and Hitler and Ribbentrop signed on behalf of Germany.
On the 15th March German troops occupied Bohemia and Moravia, and on the 16th March the German decree was issued incorporating Bohemia and Moravia in the Reich as a protectorate, and this decree was signed by the defendants Ribbentrop and Frick.
Source: The Avalon Project