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Joachim von Ribbentrop

The International Military Tribunal trials at Nuremberg [Nuernberg] in 1946 charged the defendants with four crimes. Count One charged all of the defendants with being "leaders, organizers, instigators, or accomplices in the formation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit, or which involved the commission of, Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity." Count Two charged the defendants with crimes against peace by their participation "in the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression." Count Three charged the defendants with war crimes. Count Four charged the defendants with crimes against humanity. Von Ribbentrop was indicted under all four counts.

Joachim von Ribbentrop joined the Nazi Party in 1932. By 1933 he had been made Foreign Policy Adviser to Hitler, and in the same year the representative of the Nazi Party on foreign policy. In 1934 he was appointed Delegate for Disarmament Questions, and in 1935 Minister Plenipotentiary at Large, a capacity in which he negotiated the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935 and the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936. On August 11, 1936, he was appointed ambassador to England. On February 4, 1938, he succeeded von Neurath as Reichsminister for Foreign Affairs as part of the general reshuffle which accompanied the dismissal of von Fritsch and von Blomberg.

The rise of Joachim von Ribbentrop to the post of Foreign Minister and the special favor of the Fuehrer was typical of the struggle in which men stopped at nothing to get what and where they wanted. He survived a bitter inter-bureau feud and finally defeated a conspiracy to push him out of favor with Hitler. He was thoroughly hated by members of his own party before he ever became Foreign Minister. But Hitler liked him. One reason he liked him was because he had many enemies - therefore he needed to depend on Hitler. But more than that, Hitler respects von Ribbentrop's nerve and his judgment on foreign affairs. "Ribbentrop's the man for me!" he once said. "He's cold, nothing influences him." He used to refer to him as "A second Iron Chancellor, a second Bismarck."

There could be no question about Ribbentrop's nerve - it consistrf of bad manners, insolence and condescension. He was always sure that he was right. It is hard to understand why Hitler respects Ribbentrop's judgment on foreign affairs. It is true that Ribbentrop helped to convince him that France was ripe for conquest and would offer no serious resistance is she did enter World War II. But it was Ribbentrop who assured Hitler that the British were weak, and could be beaten as easily as the French. He was wrong. Worse than that he was proven to have been guessing in both cases. His estimates and his answers were not the result of statesmanship ; they were the product of a cheap politician's gamble.

Ribbentrop had no popular following. He is a poor speaker, he lacked the common touch ; the people found him distant and snobbish. It had always been impossible for Ribbentrop to control a political machine of his own. But he continuef to try. He replaced the old career diplomatists in the Foreign Office and in the foreign service as fast as he could. That was a slow business at best, and it would have been be a long time before he could have eliminated the old career group who had no love for any political organization, least of all one led and managed by Ribbentrop. He was detested by Goering. He cultivated Himmler, perhaps feeling that next to Hitler the man who would be most valuable to his purpose is the one who controlled the SS.

Von Ribbentrop was not present at the Hossback Conference held on November 5, 1937, but on January 2, 1938, while still Ambassador to England, he sent a memorandum to Hitler indicating his opinion that a change in the status quo in the east in the German sense conld only be carried out by force and suggesting methods to prevent England and France from intervening in a European war fought to bring about such a change. When von Ribbentrop became Foreign Minister, Hitler told him that Germany still had four problems to solve, Austria, Sudetenland, Memel, and Danzig, and mentioned the possibility of "some sort of a show-down or "military settlement" for their solution.

On February 12,1938, Ribbentrop attended the conference between Hitler and Schuschnigg at which Hitler, by threats of invasion, forced Schuschnigg to grant a series of concessions desigined to strengthen the Nazis in Austria, including the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security and Interior, with control over the police. Von Ribbentrop was in London when the occupation of Austria was actually carried out and, on the basis of information supplied him by Goering, informed the British Governinent that Germany had not presented Austria with an ultimatum, but had intervened in Austria only to prevent civil war. 0n March 13,1938, von Ribbentrop signed the law incorporating Austria into the German Reich.

Von Ribbentrop participated in the aggressive plans against Czechoslovakia. Beginning in March 1938, he was in close touch with the Sudeten Gerinan Party and gave them instructions which had the effect of keeping the Sucleten German question a live issue which might serve as an excuse for the attack which Germany was planning against Czechoslovakia. In August 1938, he participated in a conference for the purpose of obtaining Hungarian support in the event of a war with Czechoslovakia. After the Munich Pact he continued to bring diplomatic pressure with the object of occupying the re- maincler of Czechoslovakia. He was instrumental in inducing the Slovalrs to proclaim their independence. He was present at the con- ference of Mnrch 14i5,1939, at which Hitler, by threats of invasion, compelled President Hacha to consent to the Gerinan occupation of Czechoslovakia. After the German troops had marched in, von Rib- bentrop signed the law establishing n protectorate over Bohemia and Moravia.

Von Ribbentrop played a particularly significant role in the diplomatic activity which led up to the attack on Poland. He participated in a conference held on August 12,1939, for the purpose of obtaining Italian support if the attack should lead to a ganeral European mar. Von Ribbentrop discussed the Gernlan demands with respect to Danzig and the Polish Corridor with the British Ambassador in the period froin August 25 to August 30, 1039, when he knew that the Gerinan plans to attack Poland had merely been temporarily postponed in an attempt to induce the British to abandon their guarantee to the Poles. The way in which he carried out these discussions makes it clear that he did not enter thein in good faith in an attenlpt to reach a settlenlent of the dificulties between Germany and Poland.

Von Ribbentrop was advised in advance of the attack on Norway and Denmark and of the attack on the Low Countries, and prepared the official Foreign Ofice rneinorailda attempting to justify these aggressive actioils. Von Ribbentrop attended the conference on January 20, 1941, at which Hitler and Mussolini discussed the proposed attack on Greece, and the conference in January 1941, at which Hitler obtained from Antonescu permission for German troops to go through Rumania for this attack. On March 25, 1941, when Yugoslavia adhered to the Axis Tri-partite Pact, von Ribbentrop had assured Yugoslavia that Germany would respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On March 27, 1941, he attended the meeting, held after the coup d'etat in Yugoslavia, at which plans were made to carry out Hitlsr's announced intention to destroy Yugoslavia.

Von Ribbentrop attended a conference in May 1941 with Hitler and Antonescn relating to Rumanian participation in the attack on the USSR. He also consulted with Rosenberg in the preliminary planning for the political exploitation of Soviet territories and in July 1941, after the outbreak of war, urged Japan to attack the Soviet Union.

Von Ribbentrop participated in a meeting of June 6, 1944, at which it was agreed to start the program under which Allied aviators carrying out machine-gun attacks on civilian population should be lynched. In December 1944, von Ribbentrop mas informed of the plans to murder one of the French generals held as a prisoner of war and directed his subordinates to see that the details were worked out in such a way as to prevent its detection by the protecting powers. Von Ribbentrop was also responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity because of his activities with respect to occupied countries and Axis satellites. The top German official in both Denmark and Vichy France mas a foreign office representative, and von Ribbentrop is therefore responsible for the general economic and political policies put into effect in the occupation of those countries. He urged the Italians to adopt a ruthless occupation policy in Yugoslavia and Greece.

He played an important part in Hitler's "final solution" of the Jewish question. In September 1942 he ordered the German diplo- matic representatives accredited to various Axis satellites to hasten the deportation of Jems to the east. In June 1042 the Gerrnan Am- bassador to Vichy requested Lava1 to turn over 50,000 Jews for deportation to the east. On February 25, 1943, von Bibbentrop protested to Mussolini against Italian slowness in deporting Jems from the Italian occupation zone of France. On April 17, 1943, he took part in a conference between Hitler and Horthy on the deportation of Jews from Hungary and informed Horthy that the "Jews must either be exterminated or taken to concentration camps." At the same conference Hitler had likencd the Jews to "tuberculosis bacilli" and said if they did not work they were to be shot.

Von Ribbentrop's defense at Nuremberg to the charges made against him was that Hitler made all the important decisions and that he was such a great admirer and faithful follower of Hitler that he never questioned Hitler's repeated assertions that he wanted peace, or the truth of the reasons that Hitler gave in explaining aggressive action.

The Tribunal didi not consider this explanation to be true. Von Ribbentrop participated in all of the Nazi aggressions from the occupation of Austria to the invasion of the Soviet Union. Although he was personally concerned with the diplomatic rather than the military aspect of these actions, his diplomatic efforts were so closely connected with war that he could not have remained unaware of the aggressive nature of Hitler's actions. In the administration of territories over which Germany acquired control by illegal invasion, von Ribbentrop also assisted in carrying out criminal policies particularly those involving the extermination of the Jews. There was abundant evidence, moreover, that von Ribbentrop was in complete sympathy with all the main tenets of the National Socialist creed, and that his collaboration with Hitler and with other defendants in the commission of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity was whole-hearted. It was because Hitler's policy and plans coincided with his own ideas that von Ribbentrop served him so willingly to the end.

The Tribunal found that von Ribbentrop was guilty on all four counts.

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