|TRANSLATION OF STATEMENT II
Source:Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume VIII. USGPO, Washington, 1946/pp.662-669
[A Short Historical Consideration of
German War Guilt]
6 September 1946
This treatise (16 pages) is entirely my own and has been written by me personally. I ask that a good translation of it be forwarded to the Supreme Justice of the War Crimes Commission.
Concern above all about Germany's future and the fate of Europe has led me to write this treatise. I am not a lawyer but I know the nature of the Germans, and I know their history. As nephew also of Dr. Friedrich Jodl, teacher of philosophy at the University of Vienna, I have concerned myself with ethical and philosophical problems to a greater extent than the average officer.
6 September 1945
During the War:
A short historical, ethical and psychological consideration of Germany's guilt for both the outbreak and during this war.
When, in the year 1918, Germany was defeated and made defenseless, it is not true that the national forces as well as the officers thought only how to undo that which had been done and how to prepare another war. There was an infinitely great readiness to overcome the pure nationalistic way of thinking through the idea of a western European league, maybe even a League of Nations. But in order to achieve that, it would have been necessary to have had, among our former enemies, a people mature and secure as to their internal political affairs as well as possessing a great statesman. But if at the outset the allied victors could not agree among themselves, then how slim indeed were the prospects for an understanding between victors and the vanquished. Crushed beneath the revolution in Germany, beneath the extortion of the Versailles dictate with all its humiliations, and the nonsensical delineation of borders, crushed beneath the misery and unemployment which followed, all the young, frail grass which was ripening on the meadow of a European understanding, withered, allowing instead the seed of the NSDAP to mature.
The NSDAP was a revolutionary party, at least as much as the communist party. The three most important of its aims were: to overcome all the aspects of Marxism and with it, the idea of the class struggle; to free Germany from the spiritual, cultural and economical domination of the Jews ; and to free Germany from the chains of the Versailles treaty. Besides that, the NSDAP despised more or less all civic organizations and finally also the army and its leadership. In it, the party saw an army of mercenaries which dragged even the idea of a people's army to the grave [Seckt], and at the end would only be an instrument of internal, political power of the various governments. This new party, founded by unknown people, without any means, without help from influential protectors and supporters, without the help of the press, was the enemy of everybody. According to human judgment it should never have had any success, and yet it did. One shouldn't say that this was done thanks to a clever and refined propaganda. Propaganda alone does not achieve anything unless there is a great idea or some impressive facts behind it. To explain this success, it is also unjust to say that no people allowed themselves to be more misled than the Germans. With such a great sucess that gave Hitler up to 96% of the votes, the German people would not simply have allowed themselves to be misled. There must have been deeper reasons for achieving such a success. Surely the abortive revolt of November 1923 has created the first martyrs of the new movement, and martyrs further any idea more than thousands of speeches and tens of thousands of posters. But at the end, the fact that any other party or any constellation of government was unable to achieve success in their foreign or domestic political affairs, as a result of the oppressive clauses of the Versailles treaty, led the party through a legal way to success.
There was deep wisdom and truth in a cartoon which appeared in 1936 in a great French funny paper. It was entitled: "The cause marches in front of the effect."
It showed A. Hitler passing in review his new army in front of which marched the statesmen of our enemies of 1918. First like shadows marched the ones who have died since, followed by those still living, all of them marching in the German parade step. In front of all of them though, marched Clemenceau shouldering a rifle, and representing the Versailles treaty. This was not only my own opinion and the one of a French funny paper, but it was shared by strong personalities of almost all the countries of the world that were interested in this problem. Those who seek the truth, and only the truth, and who are not merely content to have confirmed a preconceived idea, those then, should not only look at the results while judging a fact but they should also study its cause, for the cause alone gives the moral value.
"By itself nothing is either good or bad ; the thinking alone makes it so."
Although this party came to power through the legal way of a democratic constitution, this assumption of power soon did not leave any doubts, that this was not only a change of government but a bloodless revolution. Revolutions are inexorable, and exorbitant in setting up their aims. They lack the wisdom of antiquity, the experience of tradition and the humility of an almighty destiny which is only given to real great and wise men. And so, already in the first years, many ugly shadows of this revolution came to light and perturbed great portions of the people. But was there ever a new cultural or state's structure without its evil sides?
Nobody could know as yet if this mighty progressive evolution could develop into a historical structure or would vanish in destiny. But one thing is certain, namely the achievements of the movement, and above all, of its Fuehrer in these 6 first years until 1939. Fusion of the various countries into a real Reich unity. Class opposition has been overcome. Unemployment was abolished. Overcoming of the unfruitful party oppositions of the lazy, asocial large town. Achievements in all facets of life. Care for health, for mother and child, provisions for invalids as a result of occupational injuries. The vacation facilities for the workers, and finally the solving of the most oppressing clauses of the Versailles treaty without war and in an even friendly atmosphere with England and France. These facts have given the Fuehrer the hearts and sympathies of all Germans. The reminiscence of this will always be with the people and cannot be destroyed. It will outlive all misery and time of the German fate just as much as the ideas of the French revolution could not be removed from the European way of thinking even though Napoleon ended up in exile and legitimate emperors again took his place. The admiration that foreign countries had at the time for these deeds of Adolf Hitler is best illustrated in Churchill's article of 4 Oct 1938 in which he wished that his people and government would have just a portion of the spirit of the former German corporal. This spirit therefore cannot have been a criminal one.
The fatality started only with the political decisions of 1939, because they led to war, the most terrible war of all times which ended with the destruction of Germany. And here the question of the German people's guilt for the outbreak of the war, arises. Was this war necessary? Wasn't there another way to satisfy Germany's legitimate claims? Wherever the German people as a whole will meet the allied court in its search for the guilt, it is to be expected that the judgment be recognized internally by the German people as being a just one, and not be rejected as being a brutal violation of the natural German conception of right.
Nothing is more important in this trial than that, because if this war is supposed to have had any purpose for the progress of mankind, it can only be this, that from it will result the appeasement of Europe, if not the appeasement of the whole world. To achieve this, the place of force which caused the war and achieved victory has to be taken in the long run by justice on the part of the victors, which justice should be recognized by everybody. Because otherwise men and people won't be a step farther than they were.
I can only make a small contribution to clear all the questions about the decisions of the German government in the year 1939 which ended in the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia and the attack on Poland. I was not present when these decisions were made. I can only say that much, that the decision to occupy Bohemia and Moravia seemed to me to be a break in the up-to-now so successful policy to act only in agreement with the other great nations. It was an attempt which before the Polish war was taken up again, but now naturally was condemned to fail.
Even later during the war I was unable to learn the Fuehrer's real motives for his decisions of 1939. I do not think that it was only the vain hope, on the basis of the momentary military weakness of England and the indecision of France to obtain all territorial aims east of the Reich as imagined by the Fuehrer, by such surprise maneuvers without unleashing a great war. I rather think, and I base my opinion on the remarks of the Fuehrer during this war, that his ideas in 1939 were about the following:
Had he started for these reasons, or did he feel that only he, the Fuehrer, and none of his successors could finish the task of liberation that he had started? Was it for these reasons that he did not possess the quiet and patience to solve one after the other the various foreign and domestic problems and let them ripen, which would have required time? Maybe the trial will give more clarity. I myself don't know. But such as I have learned to know the Fuehrer later on, I will never believe that with his deep methodical thinking and his carefully weighing and considering of decisions, he acted only inconsiderately in 1939.
Of course, in history and especially in times of war success alone decides at the end. And this speaks against him. What is true, and what was right or wrong is decided by the victor. He will strive to picture Adolf Hitler as a ferocious beast, as had once also been done erroneously with Nero. But he was no such thing. He was much more a true German and despite all scepticism which mostly arose from a lack of sense of justice, he was an idealist and a visionary, an artistic nature. I can show through dozens of examples that it is only under the action of many disillusions of the unscrupulous fighting methods and threats of annihilation from our enemies that he became a fanatic and merciless fighter for his people as the enemy propaganda represented him from the beginning.
The operational decisions which the Fuehrer took during the war, and which dragged a number of neutral states into the war, came all under the highest right which exists so far in the world for a people fighting for life or death: the "state of distress right" [Notstandsrecht]. Every people would accuse their government of crime if it would not take all measures or decisions that are or appear necessary to achieve victory or prevent defeat.
Whenever the German government has attacked during this war neutral or at least formal neutral countries, it was only done because the German government was convinced that these countries either through their own volition or perhaps through necessity or force would be used as English operational bases, or that these countries, like in the case of Soviet Russia, were in instance of attacking Germany.
England and America too have acted in the same manner in moments that were much less decisive for the outcome of the war (attack on the French fleet in Oran, conquering of Syria, American landing in North Africa against resistance of French troops).
Therefore one will not find any feeling of guilt in the German sense of justice, for these actions of the Fuehrer.
I have tried throughout the war to listen constantly to the unaltered "vox populi" through my own family and through acquaintances which are composed of people from all circles and most varied camps. The complaints and accusations were always only directed, next to much unlimited praise (for instance: food supply, finance, price administration, community achievements of all sorts), against the following:
Those whose conduct and actions were not in accordance with their talks and especially with the most important watchword of this state: public safety comes before one's own profit. Against those too who were making personal profits through the misery and the war or who worshipped desires of sovereignty. Against the multiple disregard of the most primitive human rights. Against the absence of any possibility to complain against encroachments of all kinds, that is to say, a lack of real jurisdiction above all parties. Against the complete disappearance of men (for instance Jewish partners of mixed marriage), of whom nothing is being heard anymore. Also against the lack of protection from the enemy's terror attacks. But never were there complaints against the war itself or the way it was being conducted. For the mass of the people considers war as fate just like sickness and death. People never influence its outbreak and have no insight whether it was unavoidable or not. No people loves war, not even the German people. And if it has gone, just like France or England, through more wars than the American people, it is not because it is more war-loving than the Americans, but merely on account of its longer history and its central geopolitical location in the heart of Europe, where religious, ideological, racial and political differences raged strongest. The wars that America had to wage, it waged for its liberty and independence and for its states' union. Besides that, though, there were also wars not necessary for its existence as the one of 1917-18. If therefore one wants to blame the German people as a whole, then only for its wilful electing of a regime and a man of whom they must have known, that he was determined to use force in order to regain for his people the lost liberty and to give it the means for development which it had possessed in the great times of German history.
And with this I come back to the starting point of my treatise: the Versailles treaty.
The German people have gone this way because they did not see any other possibility. It finally chose and nominated Adolf Hitler as its leader after an almost 10 year hectic struggle of votes and opinions, with reservations and doubts and the old instinctive knowledge that brilliant meteors are signs of coming disaster.