Archive/File: imt/ tgmwc/judgment/j-regime-conspiracy.02 Last-Modified: 1997/09/11 Judgment of the International Military Tribunal For The Trial of German Major War Criminals London His Majesty's Stationery Office 1951 [Page 14] THE PLANNING OF AGGRESSION 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, 23rd 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 5th November, 1937, was dated five days after the meeting had taken place, and that the two documents dealing with the meeting of 22nd August, 1939 differ from one another, and are unsigned. Making the fullest allowance for criticism of this kind, the Tribunal is of 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. [Page 15] It will perhaps be useful to deal first of all with the meeting of 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 organize 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 Lieutenant 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 experiences during his four and a half years [Page 16] 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 today 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 analyzing 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 favorable opportunity presented itself. [Page 17] 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 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 Lieutenant Colonel 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. The PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will now adjourn for ten minutes. (A recess was taken.) The PRESIDENT: I will now ask M. Donnedieu de Vabres to continue the reading of the judgment. [Continued http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi?imt/tgmwc/judgment/j-invasion- austria]
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