Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ribbentrop on Hitler's Proposal for Anglo-German Alliance and Mutual Support in His Nuremberg Testimony

Below is an extract from the testimony of Joachim von Ribbentrop at Nuremberg that was entered on 29 March 1946. This extract is intended to support a prior article published on this site regarding Hitler's aim of alliance with the British Empire and his willingness to countenance German military support to preserve it as part of an alliance. This testimony also shows that it was Ribbentrop, not Churchill, that first discussed the event.

Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 10 

NINETY-FOURTH DAY

Friday, 29 March 1946

DR. HORN: Then you were appointed Ambassador to London. What led to this appointment?

VON RIBBENTROP: That came about as follows: In the time following the naval agreement, which was hailed with joy by the widest circles in England, I made great efforts to bring Lord Baldwin and the Fuehrer together, and I should like to mention here that the preliminary arrangements for this meeting had already been made by a friend of Lord Baldwin, a Mr. Jones. The Fuehrer had agreed to fly to Chequers to meet Lord Baldwin, but unfortunately Lord Baldwin declined at the last minute. What led to his declining, I do not know, but there is no doubt that certain forces in England at the time did not wish this German-British understanding.

Then in 1936, when the German Ambassador Von Hoesch died, I said to myself, that on behalf of Germany one should make one last supreme effort to come to a good understanding with England. I might mention in this connection, that at that time I had already been appointed State Secretary of the Foreign Office by Hitler and had asked him personally that that appointment be cancelled and that I be sent to London as Ambassador.

The following may have led to this decision of Hitler's. Hitler had a very definite conception of England's balance of power theory, but my view perhaps deviated somewhat from his. My conviction was that England would always continue to support her old balance of power theory, whereas Hitler was of the opinion that this theory of balance of power was obsolete, and that from now on, England should tolerate, that is, should welcome a much stronger Germany in view of the changed situation in Europe, and in view of Russia's development of strength. In order to give the Fuehrer a definite and clear picture of how matters actually stood in England-that was at any rate one of the reasons why the Fuehrer sent me to England. Another reason was that at that time we hoped, through relations with the still very extensive circles in England which were friendly to Germany and supported a German-English friendship, to make the relations between the two countries friendly and perhaps even to reach a permanent agreement.

Hitler's goal was finally and always the German-English pact.

DR. HORN: In what way was your ambassadorial activity hampered in England?

VON RIBBENTROP: I should like to say first that I was repeatedly in England in the 1930's, mainly from 1935 to 1936, and, acting on instructions from the Fuehrer, I sounded out the opinions there on the subject of a German-British pact. The basis of this pact is known. [Here follows the points from his meeting with Churchill, which I enumerate.] It was to
[1] make the naval ratio of 100 to 35 permanent. 
[2] the integrity of the so-called Low Countries, Belgium and Holland, and also France was to be guaranteed by the two countries forever and 
[3] -- this was the Fuehrer's idea -- Germany should recognize the British Empire and should be ready to stand up, if necessary even with the help of her own power, for the preservation and maintenance of the British Empire 
[4] England, in return, should recognize Germany as a strong power in Europe [that Germany would have a free hand in Eastern Europe and that Britain would remain neutral in the event of a conflict with Poland or the USSR]
It has already been said, and I should like to repeat, that these efforts in the 1930's unfortunately did not lead to any results. It was one of the Fuehrer's deepest disappointments -- and I must mention that here, for it is very important for the further course of events -- that this pact upon which he had placed such very great hopes and which he had regarded as the cornerstone of his foreign policy did not materialize in these years. What the forces were which prevented its materializing I cannot say, because I do not know. In any case we got no further.

I came back to this question several times while I was Ambassador in London and discussed it with circles friendly to Germany. And I must say that there also were many Englishmen who had a very positive attitude towards this idea.

DR. HORN: Did you also meet with any attitude that was negative?

VON RIBBENTROP: There was naturally a strong element in England which did not look favorably upon this pact or this idea of close relations with Germany, because of considerations of principle and perhaps because of traditional considerations of British policy against definite obligations of this kind. I should like to mention here briefly, even though this goes back to the year 1936, that during the Olympic Games in the year 1936 I tried to win the very influential British politician, the present Lord Vansittart, to this idea. I had at that time a very long discussion of several hours' duration with him in Berlin. Adolf Hitler also received him and likewise spoke with him about the same subject. Lord Vansittart, even though our personal relations were good, showed a certain reserve.

In the year 1937, when I was in London, I saw that two clearly different trends were gradually forming in England; the one trend was very much in favor of promoting good relations with Germany; the second trend did not wish such close relations.

There were -- I believe that I do not need to mention names, for they are well known -- those gentlemen who did not wish such close relations with Germany, Mr. Winston Churchill, who was later Prime Minister, and others.

I then made strenuous efforts in London in order to promote this idea but other events occurred which made my activity there most difficult. There was first of all, the Spanish policy. It is wellknown that civil war raged in Spain at that time and that in London the so-called Nonintervention Commission was meeting.

I therefore, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James, had a difficult task. On the one hand, with all means at my disposal, I wished to further German-English friendship and to bring about the, German-Enghsh pact, but on the other hand, I had to carry out the instructions of my government in regard to the Nonintervention, Commission and Spain. These instructions, however, were often in direct opposition to certain aims of British policy. Therefore it came about that this sort of League of Nations which the Nonintervention Commission represented at that time, and of which I was the authorized German member, prejudiced the chief aim with which Adolf Hitler had sent me to London.

But I have to say here -- if I may and am supposed to explain that period openly in the interest of the case -- that it was not only the policy regarding Spain, but that in these years, 1937 until the beginning of 1938, that section which did not want a pact with Germany, doubtless made itself constantly more evident in England; and that, today, is a historical fact. Why? The answer is very simple, very clear. These circles regarded a Germany strengthened by National Socialism as a factor which might disturb the traditional British balance of power theory and policy on the Continent.

I am convinced that Adolf Hitler at that time had no intention at all of undertaking on his part anything against England, but that he had sent me to London with the most ardent wish for really reaching an understanding with England. From London I reported to the Fuehrer about the situation. And before this Tribunal now I wish to clarify one point, a point which has been brought up very frequently and which is relevant to my own defense. It has often been asserted that I reported to the Fuehrer from England that England was degenerate and would perhaps not fight. I may and must establish the fact here, that from the beginning I reported exactly the opposite to the Fuehrer. I informed the Fuehrer that in my opinion the English ruling class and the English people had a definitely heroic attitude and that this nation was ready at any time to fight to the utmost for the existence of its empire. Later, in the course of the war and after a conference with the Fuehrer, I once discussed this subject in public, in a speech made in 1941.

Summarizing the situation in London in the years 1937 and 1938, while I was ambassador, I can at least say that I was fully cognizant of the fact that it would be very difficult to conclude a pact with England. But even so, and this I always reported, all efforts would have to be made to come by means of a peaceful settlement to an understanding with England as a decisive factor in German policy, that is, to create such a relation between the development of German power and the British basic tendencies and views on foreign policy that these two factors would not conflict.