On January 5, 1919, two months after the conclusion of World War I and six months before the signing of the Peace Treaties at Versailles, the German Labour Party was brought into existence. In September 1919, Adolf Hitler joined the political party and less than two years later the party's name was officially changed to National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (NSDAP), thus beginning the infamous history of the Nazi regime in Germany.
Origins & Aims of the Nazi Party
Consolidation of Power
Measures of Rearmament
Common Plan Conspiracy & Aggressive War
Preparations for Aggression
The Planning of Aggression
Conferences of November 1937 & November 1939
On January 5, 1919, not two months after the conclusion of the Armistice which ended the first World War, and six months before the signing of the Peace Treaties at Versailles, there came into being in Germany a small political party called the German Labour Party. On September 12, 1919, Adolf Hitler became a member of this party, and at the first public meeting held in Munich, on February 24, 1920, he announced the party's programme. That programme, which remained unaltered until the party was dissolved in 1945, consisted of twenty-five points, of which the following five are of particular interest on account of the light they throw on the matters with which the Tribunal is concerned:
"Point 1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany, on the basis of the right of a self-determination of peoples.
Point 2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain.
Point 3. We demand land and territory for the sustenance of our people, and the colonisation of our surplus population.
Point 4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race....
Point 22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army."
Of these aims, the one which seems to have been regarded as the most important, and which figured in almost every public speech, was the removal of the " disgrace " of the Armistice, and the restrictions of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain. In a typical speech at Munich on the 13th April, 1923, for example, Hitler said with regard to the Treaty of Versailles:
" The treaty was made in order to bring twenty million Germans to their deaths, and to ruin the German nation.... At its foundation our movement formulated three demands.
"1. Setting aside of the Peace Treaty.
2. Unification of all Germans.
3. Land and soil to feed our nation."
The demand for the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany was to play a large part in the events preceding the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia; the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles was to become a decisive motive in attempting to justify the policy of the German Government; the demand for land was to be the justification for the acquisition of " living space " at the expense of other nations; the expulsion of the Jews from membership of the race of German blood was to lead to the atrocities against the Jewish people; and the demand for a national army was to result in measures of rearmament on the largest possible scale, and ultimately to war. On July 29, 1921, the Party which had changed its name to National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (NSDAP) was reorganised, Hitler becoming the first " Chairman ". It was in this year that the Sturmabteilung or SA was founded, with Hitler at its head, as a private pare-military force, which allegedly was to be used for the purpose of protecting NSDAP leaders from attack by rival political parties, and preserving order at NSDAP meetings, but in reality was used for fighting political opponents on the streets. In March 1923, the defendant Goering was appointed head of the SA.
The procedure within the Party was governed in the most absolute way by the leadership principle" (Fuehrerprinzip).
According to the principle, each Fuehrer has the right to govern, administer or decree, subject to no control of any kind and at his complete discretion, subject only to the orders he received from above.
This principle applied in the first instance to Hitler himself as the Leader of the Party, and in a lesser degree to all other party officials. All members of the Party swore an oath of " eternal allegiance " to the Leader.
There were only two ways in which Germany could achieve the three main aims above-mentioned, by negotiation, or by force. The twenty-five points of the NSDAP programme do not specifically mention the methods on which the leaders of the party proposed to rely, but the history of the Nazi regime shows that Hitler and his followers were only prepared to negotiate on the terms that their demands were conceded, and that force would be used if they were not.
On the night of November 8, 1923, an abortive putsch took place in Munich. Hitler and some of his followers burst into a meeting in the Burgerbrau Cellar, which was being addressed by the Bavarian Prime Minister Kehr, with the intention of obtaining from him a decision to march forthwith on Berlin. On the morning of the November 9, however, no Bavarian support was forthcoming, and Hitler's demonstration was met by the armed forces of the Reichswehr and the Police. Only a few volleys were fired; and after a dozen of his followers had been killed, Hitler fled for his life, and the demonstration was over. The defendants Streicher, Frick and Hess all took part in the attempted rising. Hitler was later tried for high treason, and was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. The SA was outlawed. Hitler was released from prison in 1924 and in 1925 the Schutzstaffel, or SS, was created, nominally to act as his personal bodyguard, but in reality to terrorise political opponents. This was also the year of the publication of
Mein Kampf, containing the political views and aims of Hitler, which came to be regarded as the authentic source of Nazi doctrine.
The NSDAP, having achieved power in this way, now proceeded to extend its hold on every phase of German life. Other political parties were persecuted, their property and assets confiscated, and many of their members placed in concentration camps. On 26th April, 1933, the defendant Goering founded in Prussia the Gestapo as a secret police, and confided to the deputy leader of the Gestapo that its main task was to eliminate political opponents of National Socialism and Hitler. On the 14th July, 1933, a law was passed declaring the NSDAP to be the only political party, and making it criminal to maintain or form any other political party.
In order to place the complete control of the machinery of Government in the hands of the Nazi leaders, a series of laws and decrees were passed which reduced the powers of regional and local governments throughout Germany, transforming them into subordinate divisions of the Government of the Reich. Representative assemblies in the Laender were abolished and with them all local elections. The Government then proceeded to secure control of the Civil Service. This was achieved by a process of centralisation, and by a careful sifting of the whole Civil Service administration. By a law of the 7th April it was provided that officials "who were of non-Aryan descent " should be retired; and it was also decreed that " officials who because of their previous political activity cannot be guaranteed to exert themselves for the national state without reservation shall be discharged." The law of April 11, 1933, provided for the discharge of "all Civil Servants who belong to the Communist Party." Similarly, the Judiciary was subjected to control. Judges were removed from the Bench for political or racial reasons. They were spied upon and made subject to the strongest pressure to join the Nazi Party as an alternative to being dismissed. When the Supreme Court acquitted three of the four defendants charged with complicity in the Reichstag fire, its jurisdiction in cases of treason was thereafter taken away and given to a newly established "People's Court," consisting of two judges and five officials of the Party. Special courts were set up to try political crimes and only party members were appointed as judges. Persons were arrested by the SS for political reasons, and detained in prisons and concentration camps, and the judges were without power to intervene in any way. Pardons were granted to members of the Party who had been sentenced by the judges for proved offences. In 1935 several officials of the Hohenstein concentration camp were convicted of inflicting brutal treatment upon the inmates. High Nazi officials tried to influence the Court, and after the officials had been convicted, Hitler pardoned them all. In 1942, "Judges' letters" were sent to all German judges by the Government, instructing them as to the "general lines" that they must follow.
In their determination to remove all sources of opposition, the NSDAP leaders turned their attention to the trade unions, the churches and the Jews. In April 1933, Hitler ordered the late defendant Ley, who was then staff director of the political organisation of the NSDAP, " to take over the trade unions." Most of the trade unions of Germany were joined together in two large federations, the " Free Trade Unions " and the " Christian Trade Unions." Unions outside these two large federations contained only 15 per cent. of the total union membership. On April 21, 1933, Ley issued an NSDAP directive announcing a " co-ordination action" to be carried out on the 2nd May against the Free Trade Unions.
The directive ordered that SA and SS men were to be employed in the planned .' occupation of trade union properties and for the taking into protective custody of personalities who come into question." At the conclusion of the action the official NSDAP press service reported that the National Socialist Factory Cells Organisation had "eliminated the old leadership of Free Trade Unions" and taken over the leadership them selves. Similarly, on the 3rd May, 1933, the NSDAP press service announced that the Christian trade unions " have unconditionally subordinated themselves to the leadership of Adolf Hitler." In place of the trade unions the Nazi Government set up a German Labour Front (DAF), controlled by the NSDAP, and which, in practice, all workers in Germany were compelled to join. The chairmen of the unions were taken into custody and were subjected to ill-treatment, ranging from assault and battery to murder.
In their effort to combat the influence of the Christian churches, whose doctrines were fundamentally at variance with National Socialist philosophy and practice, the Nazi Government proceeded more slowly. The extreme step of banning the practice of the Christian religion was not taken, but year by year efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words used by the defendant Bormann to the defendant Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible." In the month of June, 1941, the defendant Bormann issued a secret decree on the relation of Christianity and National Socialism. The decree stated that:
" For the first time in German history the Fuehrer consciously and completely has the leadership in his own hand. With the Party, its components and, attached units, the Fuehrer has created for himself and thereby the German Reich Leadership, an instrument which makes him independent of the Treaty.... More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the Pastor. . . Never again must an influence on leadership of the people be yielded to the churches. This influence must be broken completely and finally. Only the Reich Government and by its direction the Party, its components and attached units, have a right to leadership of the people."
From the earliest days of the NSDAP, anti-Semitism had occupied a prominent place in National Socialist thought and propaganda. The Jews who were considered to have no right to German citizenship, were held to have been largely responsible for the troubles with which the nation was afflicted following on the war of 1914-18. Furthermore, the antipathy to the Jews was intensified by the insistence which was laid upon the superiority of the Germanic race and blood. The second chapter of Book 1 of " Mein Kampf " is dedicated to what may be called the " Master Race" theory, the doctrine of Aryan superiority over all other races, and the right of Germans in virtue of this superiority to dominate and use other peoples for their own ends. With the coming of the Nazis into power in 1933, persecution of the Jews became official state policy. On the 1st April, 1933, a boycott of Jewish enterprises was approved by the Nazi Reich Cabinet, and during the following years a series of anti-Semitic laws were passed, restricting the activities of Jews in the Civil Service, in the legal profession, in journalism and in the armed forces. In September, 1935, the so-called Nuremberg Laws were passed, the most important effect of which was to deprive Jews of German citizenship. In this way the influence of Jewish elements on the affairs of Germany was extinguished, and one more potential source of opposition to Nazi policy was rendered powerless.
In any consideration of the crushing of opposition, the massacre of the 30th June, 1934, must not be forgotten. It has become known as the " Roehm Purge " or " the blood bath ", and revealed the methods which Hitler and his immediate associates, including the defendant Goering, were ready to employ to strike down all opposition and consolidate their power. On that day Roehm, the Chief of Staff of the SA since 1931, was murdered by Hitler's orders, and the " Old Guard " of the SA was massacred without trial and without warning. The opportunity was taken to murder a large number of people who at one time or another had opposed Hitler.
The ostensible ground for the murder of Roehm was that he was plotting to overthrow Hitler, and the defendant Goering gave evidence that knowledge of such a plot had come to his ears. Whether this was so or not it is not necessary to determine.
On July 3rd the Cabinet approved Hitler's action and described it as " legitimate self-defence by the State."
Shortly afterwards Hindenburg died, and Hitler became both Reich President and Chancellor. At the Nazi-dominated plebiscite, which followed, 38 million Germans expressed their approval, and with the Reichswehr taking the oath of allegiance to the Fuehrer, full power was now in Hitler's hands.
Germany had accepted the Dictatorship with all its methods of terror, and its cynical and open denial of the rule of law.
Apart from the policy of crushing the potential opponents of their regime, the Nazi Government took active steps to increase its power over the German population. In the field of education, everything was done to ensure that the youth of Germany was brought up in the atmosphere of National Socialism and accepted National Socialist teachings. As early as the 7th April, 1933, the law reorganising the Civil Service had made it possible for the Nazi Government to remove all " Subversive and unreliable teachers," and this was followed by numerous other measures to make sure that the schools were staffed by teachers who could be trusted to teach their pupils the full meaning of National Socialist creed. Apart from the influence of National Socialist teaching in the schools, the Hitler Youth Organisation was also relied upon by the Nazi Leaders for obtaining fanatical support from the younger generation. The defendant von Schirach, who had been Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed Youth Leader of the German Reich in June, 1933. Soon all the youth organisations had been either dissolved or absorbed by the Hitler Youth, with the exception of the Catholic Youth. The Hitler Youth was organised on strict military lines, and as early as 1933 the Wehrmacht was cooperating in providing pre-military training for the Reich Youth.
The Nazi Government endeavoured to unite the nation in support of their policies through the extensive use of propaganda. A number of agencies were set up whose duty was to control and influence the press, radio, films, publishing firms, etc., in Germany, and to supervise entertainment and cultural and artistic activities. All these agencies came under Goebbels' Ministry of the People's Enlightenment and Propaganda, which together with a corresponding organisation in the NSDAP and the Reich Chamber of Culture, was ultimately responsible for exercising this supervision. The defendant Rosenberg played a leading part in disseminating, the National Socialist doctrines on behalf of the Party, and the defendant Fritzsche, in conjunction with Goebbels, performed the same task for the State.
The greatest emphasis was laid on the supreme mission of the German people to lead and dominate by virtue of their Nordic blood and racial purity and the ground was thus being prepared for the acceptance of the idea of German world supremacy.
Through the effective control of the radio and the press, the German people, during the years which followed 1933, were subjected to the most intensive propaganda in furtherance of the regime. Hostile criticism, indeed criticism of any kind, was forbidden, and the severest penalties were imposed on those who indulged in it.
Independent judgment, based on freedom of thought, was rendered quite impossible.
During the years immediately following Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Nazi Government set about reorganising the economic life of Germany, and in particular the armament industry. This was done on a vast scale and with extreme thoroughness.
It was necessary to lay a secure financial foundation for the building of armaments, and in April, 1936, the defendant Goering was appointed coordinator for raw materials and foreign exchange, and empowered to supervise all State and Party activities in these fields. In this capacity he brought together the War Minister, the Minister of Economics, the Reich Finance Minister, the President of the Reichsbank and the Prussian Finance Minister to discuss problems connected with war mobilisation, and on the 27th May, 1936, in addressing these men, Goering opposed any financial limitation of war production and added that " all measures are to be considered from the standpoint of an assured waging of war." At the Party Rally in Nuremberg in 1936, Hitler announced the establishment of the Four Year Plan and the appointment of Goering as the Plenipotentiary in charge. Goering was already engaged in building a strong air force and on the 8th July, 1938, he announced to a number of leading German aircraft manufacturers that the German Air Force was already superior in quality and quantity to the English. On the 14th October, 1938, at another conference, Goering announced that Hitler had instructed him to organise a gigantic armament programme, which would make insignificant all previous achievements. He said that he had been ordered to build as rapidly as possible an air force five times as large as originally planned, to increase the speed of the rearmament of the navy and army, and to concentrate on offensive weapons, principally heavy artillery and heavy tanks. He then laid down a specific programme designed to accomplish these ends. The extent to which rearmament had been accomplished was stated by Hitler in his memorandum of 9th October, 1939, after the campaign in Poland. He said:
" The military application of our people's strength has been carried through to such an extent that within a short time at any rate it cannot be markedly improved upon by any manner of effort . . .
" The warlike equipment of, the German people is at present larger in quantity and better in quality for a greater number of German divisions than in the year 1914. The weapons themselves, taking a substantial cross-section, are more modern than in the case with any other country in the world at this time. They have just proved their supreme war worthiness in their victorious campaign . . . There is no evidence available to show that any country in the world disposes of a better total ammunition stock than the Reich . . . The A.A. artillery is not equalled by any country in the world."
In this reorganisation of the economic life of Germany for military purposes, the Nazi Government found the German armament industry quite willing to cooperate, and to play its part in the rearmament programme. In April, 1933, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen submitted to Hitler on behalf of the Reich Association of German Industry a plan for the reorganisation of German industry, which, he stated was characterised by the desire to coordinate economic measures and political necessity. In the plan itself, Krupp stated that " the turn of political events is in line with the wishes which I myself and the board of directors have cherished for a long time." What Krupp meant by this statement is fully shown by the draft text of a speech which he planned to deliver in the University of Berlin in January, 1944, though the speech was in fact never delivered. Referring !to !the years 1919 to 1933, Krupp wrote: "It is the one great merit of the entire German war economy that it did not remain idle during those bad years, even though its activity could not be brought to light, for obvious reasons. Through years of secret work, scientific and basic groundwork was laid in order to be ready again to work for the German armed forces at the appointed hour, without loss of time or experience.... Only through the secret activity of German enterprise together with the experience gained meanwhile through production of peace time goods, was it possible after 1933 to fall into step width the new tasks arrived at, restoring Germany's military power."
In October, 1933, Germany withdrew from the International Disarmament Conference and League of Nations. In 1935, the Nazi Government decided to take the first open steps to free itself from its obligations under the Treaty of Versailles. On the 10th March, 1935, the defendant Goering announced that Germany was building a military air force. Six days later, on the 16th March, 1935, a law was passed bearing the signatures, among others, of the defendants Goering, Hess, Frank, Frick, Schacht and von Neurath, instituting compulsory military service and fixing The establishment of the German Army at a peace time strength of 500,000 men. In an endeavour to reassure public opinion in other countries, the Government announced on the 21st May, 1935, that Germany would, though renouncing the disarmament clauses, still respect the territorial limitations of the Versailles Treaty, and would comply with the Locarno Pacts. Nevertheless, on the very day of this announcement, the secret Reich Defence Law was passed and its publication forbidden by Hitler. In this law, the powers and duties of the Chancellor and other Ministers were defined, should Germany become involved in war. It is clear from this law that by May of 1935 Hitler and his Government had arrived at the stage in the carrying out of their policies when it was necessary for them to have in existence the requisite machinery for the administration and government of Germany in the event of their policy leading to war.
At the same time that is preparation of the German economy for war was being carried out, the German armed forces themselves were preparing for a rebuilding of Germany's armed strength.
The Germany Navy was particularly active in this regard. The official German Naval historians, Assmann and Gladisch, admit that the Treaty of Versailles had only been in force for a few months before it was violated, particularly in the construction of a new submarine arm.
The publications of Captain Schuessler and Oberst Scherf, both of which were sponsored by the defendant Raeder, were designed to show the German people the nature of the Navy's effort to rearm in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles.
The full details of these publications have been given in evidence.
On the 12th May, 1934 the defendant Raeder issued the Top Secret armament plan for what was called the Third Armament Phase. This contained the sentence:
"All theoretical and practical A-preparations are to be drawn up with a primary view to readiness for a war without any alert period."
One month later, in June 1934, the defendant Raeder had a conversation with Hitler in which Hitler instructed him to keep secret the construction of U boats and of warships over the limit of 10,000 tons which was then being undertaken.
And on the 2nd November, 1934, the defendant Raeder had another conversation with Hitler and the defendant Goering, in which Hitler said that he considered it vital that the German Navy " should be increased as planned, as no war could be carried on if the Navy was not able to safeguard the ore imports from Scandinavia."
The large orders for building given in 1933 and 1934 are sought to be excused by, the defendant Raeder on the ground that negotiations were in progress for an agreement between Germany and Great Britain permitting Germany to build ships in excess of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. This agreement (2), which was signed, in 1935, restricted the German Navy to a tonnage equal, to one third of that of the British, except in respect of U-boats where 45 per cent was agreed, subject always to the right to exceed this proportion after first informing the British Government and giving them an opportunity of discussion.
The Anglo-German Treaty followed in 1937, under which both Powers bound themselves to notify full details of their building programme at least four months before any action was taken.
It is admitted that these clauses were not adhered to by Germany.
In capital vessels, for example, the displacement details were falsified by 20 per cent., whilst in the case of U boats, the German historians Assmann and Gladisch say:
"It's probably just in the sphere of submarine construction Germany adhered the least to the restrictions of the German-British Treaty."
The importance of these breaches of the Treaty is seen when the motive for this re-armament s considered. In the year 1940 the defendant Raeder himself wrote:
"The Fuehrer hoped until the last moment to be able to put off, the threatening conflict with England until 1944-5. At the time, the Navy would have had available a fleet with a powerful U-boat superiority, and a much more favourable ratio as regards strength all other types of ships, particularly those designed for warfare on the High Seas."
The Nazi Government, as already stated, announced on the 21st May, 1935, their attention to respect the territorial limitations of the Treaty of Versailles. On the 7th March, 1936, in defiance of that Treaty, the demilitarised zone of the Rhineland was entered by German troops. In announcing this action to the German Reichstag, Hitler endeavoured to justify the re-entry by references to the recently concluded alliances between France and the Soviet Union, and between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. He also tried to meet the hostile reaction which he no doubt expected to follow this violation of the Treaty by saying:
"We have no territorial claims to make in Europe."
The Tribunal now turns to the consideration of the Crimes against peace charged in the Indictment. Count One of the Indictment charges the defendants with conspiring or having a common plan to commit crimes against peace.
Count Two of the Indictment charges the defendants with committing specific crimes against peace by planning, preparing, initiating, and waging wars of aggression against a number of other States. It will be convenient to consider the question of the existence of a common plan and the question of aggressive war together, and to deal later in this Judgment with the question of the individual responsibility of the defendants.
The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world.
To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
The first acts of aggression referred to in the Indictment are the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia and the first war of aggression charged in the Indictment is the war against Poland begun on the 1st September, 1939.
Before examining that charge it is necessary to look more closely at some of the events which preceded these acts of aggression. The war against Poland did not come suddenly out of an otherwise clear sky; the evidence has made it plain that this war of aggression, as well as the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia, was pre-meditated and carefully prepared, and was not undertaken until the moment was thought opportune for it to be carried through as a definite part of the pre-ordained scheme and plan.
For the aggressive designs of the Nazi Government were not accidents arising out of the immediate political situation in Europe and the world; they were a deliberate and essential part of Nazi foreign policy.
From the beginning, the National Socialist movement claimed that its object was to unite the German people in the consciousness of their mission and destiny, based on inherent qualities of race, and under the guidance of the Fuehrer.
For its achievement, two things were deemed to be essential: the disruption of the European order as it had existed since the Treaty of Versailles, and the creation of a Greater Germany beyond the frontiers of 1914. This necessarily involved the seizure of foreign territories.
War was seen to be inevitable, or at the very least, highly probable, if these purposes were to be accomplished. The German people, therefore, with all their resources were to be organised as a great political-military army. schooled to obey without question any policy decreed by the State.
In "Mein Kampf" Hitler had made this view quite plain. It must be remembered that "Mein Kampf" was no mere private diary in which the secret thoughts of Hitler were set down. Its contents were rather proclaimed from the house-tops. It was used in the schools and Universities and among the Hitler Youth, in the SS and the SA, and among the German people generally, even down to the presentation of an official copy to all newly married people. By the year 1945 over 61 million copies had been circulated. The general contents are well known. Over and over again Hitler asserted his belief in the necessity of force as the means of solving international problems, as in the following quotation:
"The soil on which we now live was not a gift bestowed by Heaven on our forefathers. They had to conquer it by risking their lives. So also in the future, our people will not obtain territory, and therewith the means of existence, as a favour from any other people, but will have to win it by the power of a triumphant sword."
"Mein Kampf" contains many such passages, and the extolling of force as an instrument of foreign policy is openly proclaimed.
The precise objectives of this policy of force are also set forth in detail The very first page of the book asserts that " German-Austria must be restored to the great German Motherland," not on economic grounds, but because " people of the same blood should be in the same Reich."
The restoration of the German frontiers of 1914 is declared to be wholly insufficient, and if Germany is to exist at all, it must be as a world power with the necessary territorial magnitude.
"Mein Kampf " is quite explicit in stating where the increased territory is to be found:
"Therefore we National Socialists have purposely drawn a line through the line of conduct followed by pre-war Germany in foreign policy. We put an end to the perpetual Germanic march towards the South and West of Europe, and turn our eyes towards the lands of the East. We finally put a stop to the colonial and trade policy of the pre-war times, and pass over to the territorial policy of the future.
But when we speak of new territory in Europe to-day, we must think principally of Russia and the border states subject to her."
"Mein Kampf " is not to be regarded as a mere literary exercise, nor as an inflexible policy or plan incapable of modification.
lts importance lies in the unmistakable attitude of aggression revealed throughout its pages.
Evidence from captured documents has revealed that Hitler held four secret meetings to which the Tribunal proposes to make special reference because of the light they shed upon the question of the common plan and aggressive war.
These meetings took place on the 5th of November, 1937, the 23rd of May, 1939, the 22nd of August, 1939, and the 23rd of November, 1939.
At these meetings important declarations were made by Hitler as to his purposes, which are quite unmistakable in their terms.
The documents which record what took place at these meetings have been subject to some criticism at the hands of defending Counsel.
Their essential authenticity is not denied, but it is said, for example that they do not purpose to be verbatim transcripts of the speeches they record, that the document dealing with the meeting on the 5th November, 1937, was dated five days after the meeting had taken place, and that the two documents dealing with the meeting of August 22nd, 1939, differ from one another, and are unsigned.
Making the fullest allowance for criticism of this kind, the Tribunal is of the opinion that the documents are documents of the highest value, and that their authenticity and substantial truth are established.
They are obviously careful records of the events they describe, and they have been preserved as such in the archives of the German Government, from whose custody they were captured. Such documents could never be dismissed as inventions, nor even as inaccurate or distorted, they plainly record events which actually took place.
It will perhaps be useful to deal first of all with the meeting of the 23rd November, 1939, when Hitler called his Supreme Commanders together. A record was made of what was said, by one of those present. At the date of the meeting, Austria and Czechoslovakia had been incorporated into the German Reich, Poland had been conquered by the German armies, and the war with Great Britain and France was still in its static phase. The moment was opportune for a review of past events. Hitler informed the Commanders that the purpose of the Conference was to give them an idea of the world of his thoughts, and to tell them his decision. He thereupon reviewed his political task since 1919, and referred to the secession of Germany from the League of Nations, the denunciation of the Disarmament Conference, the order for re-armament, the introduction of compulsory armed service, the occupation of the Rhineland, the seizure of Austria, and the action against Czechoslovakia. He stated:
"One year later, Austria came; this step also was considered doubtful. It brought about a considerable reinforcement of the Reich. The next step was Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. This step also was not possible to accomplish in one campaign. First of all, the western fortification had to be finished. It was not possible to reach the goal in one effort. It was clear to me from the first moment that I could not be satisfied with the Sudeten German territory. That was only a partial solution. The decision to march into Bohemia was made. Then followed the erection of the Protectorate and with that the basis for the action against Poland was laid, but I wasn't quite clear at that time whether I should start first against the East and then in the West or vice versa . . . Basically I did not organise the armed forces in order not to strike. The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later I wanted to solve the problem. Under pressure it was decided that the East was to be attacked first."
This address, reviewing past events and re-affirming the aggressive intentions present from the beginning, puts beyond any question of doubt the character of the actions against Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the war against Poland.
For they had all been accomplished according to plan, and the nature of that plan must now be examined in a little more detail.
At the meeting of the 23rd November, 1939, Hitler was looking back to things accomplished, at the earlier meetings now to be considered, he was looking forward, and revealing his plans to his confederates. The comparison is instructive.
The meeting held at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the 5th November 1937, was attended by Lieut.-Colonel Hoszbach, Hitler's personal adjutant, who compiled a long note of the proceedings, which he dated the 10th November, 1937, and signed.
The persons present were Hitler, and the defendants Goering, von Neurath and Raeder, in their capacities as Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Reich Foreign Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy respectively, General von Blomberg, Minister of War, and General von Fritsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army.
Hitler began by saying that the subject of the conference was of such high importance that in other States it would have taken place before the Cabinet. He went on to say that the subject matter of his speech was the result of his detailed deliberations, and of his experience during his four and a half years of Government. He requested that the statements he was about to make should be looked upon in the case of his death as his last will and testament. Hitler's main theme was the problem of living space, and he discussed various possible solutions, only to set them aside. He then said that the seizure of living space on the continent of Europe was therefore necessary, expressing himself in these words:
"It is not a case of conquering people, but of conquering agriculturally useful space. It would also be more to the purpose to seek raw material producing territory in Europe directly adjoining the Reich and not overseas, and this solution would have to be brought into effect for one or two generations.... The history of all times Roman Empire, British Empire- has proved that every space expansion can only be effected by breaking resistance and taking risks. Even setbacks are unavoidable: neither formerly nor to-day has space been found without an owner; the attacker always comes up against the proprietor."
He concluded with this observation:
"The question for Germany is where the greatest possible conquest could- be made at the lowest cost."
Nothing could indicate more plainly the aggressive intentions of Hitler, and the events which soon followed showed the reality of his purpose. It is impossible to accept the contention that Hitler did not actually mean war; for after pointing out that Germany might expect the opposition of England and France, and analysing the strength and the weakness of those powers in particular situations, he continued:
"The German question can be solved only by way of force, and this is never without risk.... If we place the decision to apply force with risk at the head of the following expositions, then we are left to reply to the questions 'when' and 'how'. In this regard we have to decide upon three different cases."
The first of these three cases set forth a hypothetical international situation, in which he would take action not later than 1943 to 1945, saying:
"If the Fuehrer is still living then it will be his irrevocable decision to solve the German space problem not later than 1943 to 1945. The necessity for action before 1943 to 1945 will come under consideration in Cases 2 and 3."
The second and third cases to which Hitler referred show the plain intention to seize Austria and Czechoslovakia, and in this connection Hitler said:
"For the improvement of our military-political position, it must be our first aim in every case of entanglement by war to conquer Czechoslovakia and Austria simultaneously in order to remove any threat from the flanks in case of a possible advance westwards."
He further added:
"The annexation of the two states to Germany militarily and politically would constitute a considerable relief, owing to shorter and better frontiers, the freeing of fighting personnel for other purposes, and the possibility of reconstituting new armies up to a strength of about twelve divisions."
This decision to seize Austria and Czechoslovakia was discussed in some detail, the action was to be taken as soon as a favourable opportunity presented itself.
The military strength which Germany had been building up since 1933 was now to be directed at the two specific countries, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
The defendant Goering testified that he did not believe at that time that Hitler actually meant to attack Austria and Czechoslovakia, and that the purpose of the conference was only to put pressure on von Fritsch to speed up the re-armament of the Army.
The defendant Raeder testified that neither he, nor von Fritsch, nor von Blomberg, believed that Hitler actually meant war, a conviction which the defendant Raeder claims that he held up to the 22nd August, 1939. The basis of this conviction was his hope that Hitler would obtain a " political solution" of Germany's problems. But all that this means, when examined, is the belief that Germany's position would be so good, and Germany's armed might so overwhelming, that the territory desired could be obtained without fighting for it. It must be remembered too that Hitler's declared intention with regard to Austria was actually carried out within a little over four months from the date of the meeting, and within less than a year the first portion of Czechoslovakia was absorbed, and Bohemia and Moravia a few months later. If any doubts had existed in the minds of any of his hearers in November, 1937, after March of 1939 there could no longer be any question that Hitler was in deadly earnest in his decision to resort to war. The Tribunal is satisfied that Lt.-Col. Hoszbach's account of the meeting is substantially correct, and that those present knew that Austria and Czechoslovakia would be annexed by Germany at the first possible opportunity.
Source: The Avalon Project