The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/25

Q. I am quite sure that the Tribunal will permit you to do
so. I think that the Tribunal will permit that the motives

THE PRESIDENT: I think the Tribunal thinks you are going
into too great detail over these matters. If the Tribunal is
prepared to accept this witness's evidence as true, it shows
that Schacht was negotiating with him and General Witzleben
at this time, with a view to prevent the war. I say, if the
Tribunal accepts it, and that seems to be a matter you will
not prove with the details of these negotiations, which seem
to me not very important.

DR. DIX: Yes, but in my opinion, I should have to touch upon
the seriousness and intensity of the activities of these
conspirators, and to substantiate them in detail. In my
opinion it is not sufficient that these plans ...

THE PRESIDENT: But you have touched upon them since 10
o'clock this morning.

DR. DIX: Your Lordship, I am now coming to a political
survey of Schacht's part ...

THE PRESIDENT: I am told that you said last night that you
would be half-hour longer. Do you remember saying that?
Perhaps it was a mistranslation.

DR. DIX: Oh no, that is a big misunderstanding. I said that
if I were to touch upon the Fritsch crisis and complete it,
it would take another half-hour; that is, the Fritsch crisis
alone. Gentlemen of the Tribunal, the case is the following:
We are now hearing the story of the political opposition, in
which Schacht played a leading role. If the defendant
Goering and others had time for days to describe the entire
course of events from their point of view, I think that
justice demands that those men, represented in this court
room by the defendant Schacht, who fought against that
system under most awful conditions of terror, should also be
permitted to minutely tell the story of their opposition

I would, therefore, ask the Tribunal - and I am not
referring to superfluous matters - to give me permission to
allow the witness to make a few more remarks on the measures
taken by the group of conspirators Beck, Schacht, Canaris,
and others, which he has already started to discuss. I pray
the Tribunal to realise that I consider it of the greatest
importance and I assume, your Lordship, that if it is not
done now, the prosecution will do so during cross-
examination. I believe that since it is now being told in
sequence, it will take less time than if we were to wait for
the cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not propose to tell you how
you are to prove your case, but it hopes that you will deal
with it as shortly as possible and without unnecessary

DR. DIX: I promise that.


Q. Well, then, witness, you had mentioned the "foreign
political measures" and you were about to talk of the
motives which caused some of you to take up relations with
foreign countries for support of your movement. Will you
please continue?

A. I should like to confine myself to the statement that
from that time on there were considerable and weighty
discussions with foreign countries in order

                                                  [Page 241]

to try to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of
war, or at least to shorten it or keep it from spreading.
However, as long as I am not in a position to be able to
speak of the motives in this very complicated matter, in
connection with which people like us would be accused, in
Germany at least, of high treason - as long as that is the
case, I shall not say more than that these conversations had
taken place.

Q. I did not understand that the Tribunal would prevent you
from explaining your motives. You may state them therefore.

A. I owe it to my conscience and above all to those who
participated and who are now dead, to state here that their
consciences weighed heavy upon them as a result of those
matters which I have described. We knew that we would be
accused of conspiring with foreign countries.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal, of course, knows that these
matters were not conducted without danger, but we are not
really here for the purpose of considering people who have,
unfortunately, lost their lives. We are considering the case
of the defendant Schacht at the moment.

DR. DIX: I think the witness' intentions have been
misunderstood. He does not wish to speak of those men who
lost their lives, and he does not want to speak of the
dangers; rather does he wish to speak of the conflicts of
conscience, which those who planned and undertook those
steps experienced. I think that that privilege should be
granted the witness if he is to speak of this very delicate
matter here in public. I should, therefore, beg you to allow
it. Otherwise, the witness will confine himself to general
intimations which will not be sufficient for my defence. In
any case I assume that the prosecution will touch on the
matter in the cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you try and get him to come to the
point? We, of course, can't tell what he wants to talk
about. We can only tell what he does talk about.


Q. Well, then, you will describe briefly the motives of
those who made these foreign connections, and also the
connections themselves.

A. Mr. President, it was not merely a question of
conscience. I was concerned with the fact that relatives are
still alive who may be subject to unjust accusations, and
that is why I had to say, with reference to those
conferences abroad which I shall describe, that even our
intimate circle of friends did not agree in all respects as
to what steps were justifiable. One wanted to go ahead,
while another held back. I owe it to the memory of the dead
Admiral Canaris, for instance, to rectify many erroneous
Press statements, and affirm that he had refused to conspire
with foreign countries. I must guard against the possibility
that anything I say now might be applied to men whom I have
mentioned earlier. That is the reason I wanted to make that
statement and at the same time I wanted to say that we who
were involved refuted the charge of high treason, because we
felt that we were morally obliged to take these steps.

Q. Well, then, what happened?

A. The following happened: Immediately after Hitler
announced his intention to invade Czechoslovakia, we tried
to keep the British Government informed, from the first
intention to the final decision. These attempts began with
the journey of Goerdeler in the spring of 1938 to London,
where he gave information concerning the existence of an
opposition group which was resolved to go to any lengths.
Through this group the British Government was continuously
informed of what was happening, and made to realise that it
was absolutely essential to make it clear to the German
people and to the generals, that every step across the Czech
border would be, for the Western Powers, a reason for war.
When the crisis neared the climax and when our preparations
for a putsch had been completed to the last detail, we took
steps that had no precedent; we informed the British
Government that the pending diplomatic

                                                  [Page 242]
negotiations would not, as Hitler stated, deal with the
question of the Sudeten countries, but with his intention to
invade the whole of Czechoslovakia; and that if the British
Government were to remain firm, we could give the assurance
that there would be no war.

That, at the time, was our attempt to receive a certain
amount of assistance from abroad in our fight for the
psychological preparation of a revolt.

Q. We now come to September of 1938 and the crisis which led
to the Munich Conference. What were the activities of your
group of conspirators at that time?

A. As the crisis gradually came to a head, we tried to
convince Halder that he should undertake the putsch at once.
Since Halder was quite sure of the situation, Witzleben
prepared everything in detail. I shall now describe only the
last two dramatic days. On 27 September it was clear that
Hitler wanted to go to the last extremity. In order to make
the German people war-minded he ordered a parade of the
armies in Berlin, and Witzleben had to carry that order out.
The parade had entirely the opposite effect. The population,
which assumed that these troops were going to war, showed
their open displeasure. The troops, instead of jubilation,
saw clenched fists, and Hitler, who was watching the parade
from the window of the Reich Chancellery, had an attack of
anger. He stepped back from his window and said, "With such
a people I cannot wage war." Witzleben on his return from
the parade, said that he would have Eked to have unlimbered
the guns outside the Reich Chancellery. On the next morning

Q. One moment, Witzleben told you that he would have liked
to unlimber the guns outside the Chancellery?

A. Yes.

Q. And what is the source of your knowledge regarding
Hitler's remarks when he stepped back from the balcony?

A. Several people from the Reich Chancellery repeated them
to us.

Q. And now to continue.

A. The following morning - this was the 28th - we believed
that the opportunity had come to start the revolt. On that
morning too we discovered that Hitler had rejected the final
offer from the British Prime Minister Chamberlain and had
sent the intermediary, Wilson, back with a negative answer.
Witzleben received that latter and took it to Halder. He
believed that now the proof for Hitler's desire for war had
been established, and Halder agreed. Halder visited von
Brauchitsch while Witzleben waited in Halder's room. After a
few moments Halder came back and said that Brauchitsch now
also had realised that the moment for action had arrived and
that he merely wanted to go over to the Reich Chancellery to
make quite sure that Witzleben and Halder's story was
correct. Brauchitsch accordingly went to the Reich
Chancellery after Witzleben had told him over the telephone
that everything was prepared, and it was at midday on 28
September, when suddenly and contrary to our expectation
Mussolini intervened and Hitler, impressed by Mussolini's
step, agreed to go to Munich. So, at the eleventh hour, the
putsch was made impossible.

Q. You mean through Munich, don't you?

A. Of course.

Q. And now the Munich conference was over. How did matters
stand in your group of conspirators?

A. We were extremely depressed. We were convinced that now
Hitler would soon lay down his cards. We did not doubt that
Munich was the signal for the world war. Some of our friends
wondered if we should emigrate and it was discussed with
Goerdeler and Schacht. Goerdeler wrote a letter to a
political friend in America and expressly asked whether the
opposition people should now emigrate. Goerdeler said,
"There is only one other possibility, and that is to employ
the methods of Tallyrand in order to be able to  continue

                                                  [Page 243]

our political work in Germany." We decided to persevere and
then events followed quickly, from the Jewish pogroms to the
conquest of Prague.

Q. But before we come to Prague, witness, you mentioned the
Jewish pogroms and obviously you mean November, 1938. Do you
know or can you recollect what Schacht's reaction was?

A. Schacht was indignant about the pogroms, and he said so
in a speech to the staff of the Reichsbank.

Q. I shall submit that speech later as documentary evidence.
How did things go on from there? We have come to the end of
1938. Were there new political events on the horizon which
were stimulating to you conspirators?

A. First of all, there was Schacht's sudden dismissal as
President of the Reichsbank, Schacht's desire for a
consultation of the cabinet on this matter did not
materialise and our hopes to occasion a cabinet crisis were
vain. Thus our opposition group had no firm hold and we had
to wait to see what would happen after the conquest of

Q. One moment, you mentioned Schacht's dismissal from his
position as President of the Reichsbank. Can you tell us
anything about this, anything about these events; the
circumstances leading to it and the affect it had on
Schacht, etc.?

A. I saw how the various letters and memoranda of the
Reichsbank directorate were drafted and how they were
progressively toned down, and how Schacht was then
dismissed. A few minutes after the letter of dismissal
arrived from Hitler, Schacht read it to me, and he was
indignant at the contents. He repeated to me the passage in
which Hitler praised him for his participation in the German
rearmament programme, and said: "And now he wants me to work
with him openly and use me for his war policy."

Q. But then Schacht remained as a minister without
portfolio. Was the problem of whether he should do so or
whether he could have acted differently ever discussed
between you and Schacht at the time?

A. Yes, but as far as I know it was the same type of
discussion which took place whenever he was to resign. He
talked to Lammers, and I assume that Lammers gave him the
customary reply.

Q. In other words, he thought he had to remain, that he was
forced to remain?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, you have made several attempts, but I interrupted
you, to speak about Prague. Will you please describe the
effects upon your group of conspirators, as far as Schacht
was concerned?

A. Since December our group had definite proof that Hitler
would attack Prague in March. This new action was cynically
called the "March whirlwind." Since it was quite openly
discussed in Berlin circles, we hoped that news of it would
reach the British and French embassies. We were firmly
convinced that this time there would be no victory by
surprise. But Halder had already adopted a different view.
He thought that Hitler had been given free passage to Prague
by the Western powers. He refused to have preliminary
conferences and wanted to wait and see whether this Prague
action could be achieved without a fight. And that is what

Q. You have already spoken about the steps regarding the
British and French embassies.

A. I have said that no steps were taken in regard to these

Q. Do you want to say anything further about it? Do you have
something to add?

A. No. Nothing, except that, as I said, we hoped that news
of the action would reach them.

Q. Now, then, Prague is over, and I believe that you and
Schacht went to Switzerland together on behalf of your
group. Is that correct?

A. Not only Schacht but also Goerdeler. We were of the

                                                  [Page 244]

that Prague would have incredible psychological effects in
Germany. As far as foreign countries were concerned, Prague
showed that no peace and no treaty could be made with
Hitler. Inside Germany unfortunately we remarked that now
the generals and the people were convinced that this Hitler
could do whatever he wanted to; nobody could stop him; he
was protected by Providence. This alarmed us. On the one
hand we saw that the Western powers would no longer
complacently accept these things; on the other we saw that
within Germany the illusion was growing that the Western
powers would not go to war. We could see that a war could
only be prevented if these powers would tell not only the
foreign minister, not only Hitler, but by every means of
propaganda tell the German nation that any further step
towards the East would mean war. That appeared to us to be
the only possibility of warning the generals and getting
them to revolt and was the subject of the discussions which
Schacht, Goerdeler and I had in Switzerland, immediately
after Prague.

Q. With whom?

A. We met a man who had excellent connections to the British
and French Governments. This man made very exact reports, at
any rate to the French Government. I can testify to this
because later, after Paris was conquered, I was able to find
a copy of his report among Daladier's secret papers. We told
this man that in autumn at the latest, the fight for Danzig
would start. We told him that, as good Germans, we were
without doubt of the opinion that Danzig was a German city,
and that some day that point would have to be peacefully
discussed; but we also warned him that to have conferences
now regarding Danzig alone would be of little avail, because
Hitler did not want only Danzig but the whole of Poland; not
only the whole of Poland but the Ukraine; and that that was
the reason why the Western Powers should make it abundantly
clear to Germany, in their propaganda, that the limit had
now been reached, and that they would intervene. We said
that only then would a putsch be possible.

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