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The third step was taken by Ribbentrop after his return from London. Although he had been appointed Foreign Minister in February, he had gone back to London to clear up his business at the embassy. Although he was still in London until after the Anschluss had actually occurred, his name appears as a signatory of the law making Austria a province of the German Reich (2307-PS).
(2) Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia furnishes a typical example of aggression in its various aspects. To summarize the outstanding features briefly: First, there was the necessity of stirring up trouble inside the country against which aggression was planned.
Ribbentrop, as Foreign Minister, helped in the stirring up of the Sudeten Germans under Henlein, who was in frequent contact with the German Foreign Office (3060-PS; 2789–PS; 3059-PS). These documents demonstrate how the Foreign Office stirred up the Sudeten-German movement so that it would act in accordance with the Government of the Reich.
Later on, Ribbentrop was present on 28 May 1938 at the conference at which Hitler gave instructions to prepare the attack on Czechoslovakia (388-PS; 2360-PS). In a speech in January 1939 Hitler proclaimed that aggression was to take place against Czechoslovakia (2360–PS):
"On the basis of this unbearable provocation, which was still further emphasized by a truly infamous persecution and terrorizing of our Germans there, I have now decided to solve the Sudeten-German question in a final and radical manner."
"On 28 May I gave the order for the preparation of military steps against this state, to be concluded by 2 October." (2360-PS)
The important point is that 28 May was the date when the Fall Gruen for Czechoslovakia was the subject of orders, and that it was thereafter put into effect, to come to fruition at the beginning of October.
That was the second stage: To lay well in advance the plans of aggression.
The third stage was to see that neighboring states were not likely to cause trouble. Hence, on 18 July 1938, Ribbentrop had a conversation with the Italian Ambassador, Attolico, at which the attack on Czechoslovakia was dicussed (2800-PS). Further discussions along the same lines followed (2791-PS; 2792–PS).
The effect of these documents is, that it was made clear to the Italian Government that the German Government was going to move against Czechoslovakia.
The other interested country was Hungary, for Hungary had certain territorial desires with regard to parts of the Czechoslovakian Republic. Accordingly on 23 and 25 August Ribbentrop was present at the discussions and had discussions himself with the Hungarian politicians Imredi and Kanya (2796-PS; 2797PS). These documents indicate that Ribbentrop endeavored to get assurances of Hungarian help, and that the Hungarian Government at the time was not too ready to commit itself to action, although it was ready enough with sympathy.
Contacts had been established with the Sudeten Germans, for theirs was the long-term grievance that had to be exploited. But the next stage was to have a short-term grievance and to stir up trouble, preferably at the fountainhead. Therefore, between 16 and 24 September, the German Foreign Office, of which Ribbentrop was the head, was engaged in stirring up trouble in Prague (2858-PS; 2855-PS; 2854-PS; 2853-PS; and 2856-PS). An example of the type of these activities is the communication of 19 September from the Foreign Office to the German Embassy in Prague (2858-PS):
"Please inform Deputy Kundt at Konrad Henlein's request, to get in touch with the Slovaks at once and induce them to start their demands for autonomy tomorrow." (2858-PS) Another of these documents deals with questions of arrest and the action to be taken against any Czechs in Germany in order to make the position more difficult (2855-PS).
That was the contribution which Ribbentrop made to the preMunich crisis, which culminated in the Munich agreement of 29 September 1938 (TC-23).
A significant aspect of Nazi plotting with regard to Czechoslovakia, which shows the sort of action and advice which the Wehrmacht expected from the Foreign Office, is contained in a long document putting forward an almost infinite variety of breaches of International Law, which were likely to arise or might have arisen from the action in regard to Czechoslovakia (C-2). On all these points the opinion of the Foreign Office was sought, with a view to explanation and justification. That, of course, remained a hypothetical question because at that time no war resulted.
The second stage of the acquisition of Czechoslovakia occurred when, having obtained the Sudetenland, the Nazis arranged a crisis in Czechoslovakia which would be an excuse for taking the
rest. This action is important as constituting the first time that the German Government disregarded its own commitment that its desires did not go beyond the return of German blood to the Reich. On that point, again, Ribbentrop was active. On 13 March, as events were moving to a climax, he sent a telegram to the German Minister in Prague, his subordinate, telling him to
"make a point of not being available if the Czech Government wants to get in touch with you in the next few days." (2815-PS).
At the same time Ribbentrop attended a conference in Berlin with Hitler and a delegation of pro-Nazi Slovaks. Tiso, one of the heads of the pro-Nazi Slovaks, was directed to declare an independent Slovak State in order to assist in the disintegration of Czechoslovakia (2802-PS). A previous meeting along the same lines had been held a month before (2790-PS). Thus, Ribbentrop was assisting in the task, again, of fomenting internal trouble.
On 14 March 1939, the following day, Hacha, the President of Czechoslovakia, was called to Berlin. Ribbentrop was at this meeting, at which pressure and threats were used to obtain the aged President's consent to hand over the Czechoslovak State to Hitler (2798-PS; 3061-PS).
That was the end of the Czech part of Czechoslovakia. The following week Ribbentrop signed a treaty with Slovakia, Article II of which granted the German Government the right to construct military posts and installations, and to keep them garrisoned within Slovakia (1439-PS). Thus, after swallowing Bohemia and Moravia as an independent state, Ribbentrop obtained military control over Slovakia.
(3) Lithuania. An interesting point concerning the Northern Baltic shows how difficult it was for Ribbentrop to keep his hands out of the internal affairs of other countries, even when it did not seem a very important matter. On 3 April 1939 Germany had occupied the Memeland (TC-53-A). It would have appeared, as far as the Baltic States were concerned, that the position was satisfactory to the Nazis but in fact Ribbentrop was acting in close concert with Heydrich, in stirring up trouble in Lithuania with a group of pro-Nazi people called the Woldemaras Supporters (2953-PS; 2952-PS). Heydrich was passing to Ribbentrop a request for financial support for this group:
"Dear Party Comrade v. Ribbentrop,
"Enclosed please find a further report about the 'Woldemaras Supporters.' As already mentioned in the previous report, the 'Woldemaras Supporters' are still asking for help
from the Reich. I therefore ask you to examine the question of financial support, brought up again by the 'Woldemaras Supporters' set forth on page 4, para 2 of the enclosed report and to make a definite decision.
"The request of the 'Woldermaras Supporters' for financial support could, in my opinion, be granted. Deliveries of arms should not, however, be made, under any circumstances.” (2953-PS)
At the end of a fuller report on the same matter (2952-PS) there is added in handwriting,
"I support small regular payments, e.g. 2,000 to 3,000 marks quarterly." (2952-PS).
It is signed "W", who was the Secretary of State. Such was the extraordinary interference, even with comparatively unimportant countries.
(4) Poland. In the aggression against Poland, there were several periods. The first was what might be called the Munich period, up to the end of September 1938, and at that time no language the Nazis could use was too good for Poland. Examples of German assurances and reassurances to Poland during this period are Hitler's Reichstag speech on 20 February 1938 (2357-PS), the secret Foreign Office memorandum of 26 August 1938 (TC-76), and the conversation between M. Lipski, the Polish ambassador, and Ribbentrop (TC-73, No. 40). A final illustration of this technique is Hitler's speech at the Sportzpalast on 26 September 1938, in which he said that this was the end of his territorial problems in Europe and expressed an almost violent affection for the Poles (TC-73, No. 42).
The next stage occupied the period between Munich and the rape of Prague. With part of the German plan for Czechoslovakia having been accomplished and parts still remaining to be done, there was a slight change towards Poland but still a friendly atmosphere. In a conversation with M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador to Berlin, on 24 October 1938, Ribbentrop put forward very peaceful suggestions for the settlement of the Danzig issue (TC-73, No. 44). The Polish reply, of 31 October 1938, stated that it was unacceptable that Danzig should return to the Reich, but made suggestions of a bilateral agreement (TC-73, No. 45). Between these dates the German Government had made its preparations to occupy Danzig by surprise (C-137).
But although these preparations were made, still some two months later, on 5 January 1939, Hitler was suggesting to M.
Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, a new solution (TC-73, No. 48).
Ribbentrop saw M. Beck on the next day and said that there was to be no violent solution of the Danzig issue, but a further building up of friendly relations (TC-73, No. 49). Not content with that, Ribbentrop went to Warsaw on 25 January to talk of the continued progress and consolidation of friendly relations (2530-PS). That was capped by Hitler's Reichstag speech on 30 January 1939, in the same tone (TC-73, No. 57). That was the second stage-the mention of Danzig in honeyed words, because the rape of Prague had not yet been attained.
Then, in the meeting at the Reichschancellery on 23 May 1939, Hitler made it quite clear, and so stated, that Danzig had nothing to do with the real Polish question (L-79). "I have to deal with Poland because I want lebensraum in the East"-that is the effect of Hitler's words at that time: that Danzig was merely an excuse.
The extent to which Ribbentrop had adopted this attitude of mind of Hitler at this time is shown in the introduction to Count Ciano's Diary (2987-PS):
"In the Summer of 1939 Germany advanced her claim against Poland, naturally without our knowledge; indeed, Ribbentrop had several times denied to our Ambassador that Germany had any intentions of carrying the controversy to extremes. Despite these denials I remained in doubt; I wanted to make sure for myself, and on August 11th I went to Salzburg. It was in his residence at Fuschl that Ribbentrop informed me, while we were waiting to sit down at the table, of the decision to start the fireworks, just as he might have told me about the most unimportant and commonplace administrative matter. 'Well, Ribbentrop,' I asked him, while we were walking in the garden, 'What do you want? The Corridor, or Danzig?' 'Not any more', and he stared at me through those cold Musee Grevin eyes, 'We want war.'" (2987-PS).
That extraordinary declaration closely corroborates Hitler's statement at his Chancellery conference on 23 May-that it was no longer a question of Danzig or the Corridor, but a question of war to achieve lebensraum in the East (L-79).
It should be recalled in this connection that "Fall Weiss", the plan for operations against Poland, is dated 3 and 11 April 1939, thus showing that preparations were already in hand (C-120). Another entry in Count Ciano's Diary during the summer of 1939 makes this point quite clear:
"I have collected in the conference records verbal transcripts