Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

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Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby David Thompson » 10 Nov 2004 10:18

The transcript of this conference is of interest not only for the insights it presents into Hitler's thinking, but also because Hitler discusses his plan to rearm and then launch aggressive wars against the countries of western Europe. As Hitler put it in this speech:
Basically I did not organize the armed forces in order not to strike.
He then went on to say:
The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later I wanted to solve the problem [of living space for Germany].
Hitler's fixed intention to start a war is a fact frequently contested by revisionist historians and amateurs today.

Document 789-PS, Fuehrer conference of 23 November 1939, in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III, US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1946, pp. 572-580.

[Penciled note:] Duplicate

23 November 1939, 1200 hours. Conference with the Fuehrer, to which all Supreme Commanders are ordered. The Fuehrer gives the following speech:

The purpose of this conference is to give you an idea of the world of my thoughts, which governs me in the face of future events, and to tell you my decisions. The building up of our armed forces was only possible in connection with the ideological [weltanschaulich] education of the German people by the Party. When I started my political task in 1919, my strong belief in final success was based on a thorough observation of the events of the day and the study of the reasons for their occurrence. Therefore, I never lost my belief in the midst of set-backs which were not spared me during my period of struggle. Providence has had the last word and brought me success. On top of that, I had a clear recognition of the probable course of historical events, and the firm will to make brutal decisions. The first decision was in 1919 when I after long internal conflict became a politician and took up the struggle against my enemies. That was the hardest of all decisions. I had, however, the firm belief that I would arrive at my goal. First of all, I desired a new system of selection. I wanted to educate a minority which would take over the leadership. After 15 years, I arrived at my goal, after strenuous struggles and many set-backs. When I came to power in 1933, a period of the most difficult struggle lay behind me. Everything existing before that had collapsed. I had to reorganize everything beginning with the mass of the people and extending it to the armed forces. First reorganization of the interior, abolishment of appearances of decay and defeatist ideas, education to heroism. While reorganizing the interior, I undertook the second task: to release Germany from its international ties. Two particular characteristics are to be pointed out: secession from the League of Nations and denunciation of the disarmament conference. It was a hard decision. The number of prophets who predicted that it would lead to the occupation of the Rhineland was large, the number of believers was very small. I was supported by the nation, which stood firmly behind me, when I carried out my intentions. After that the order for rearmament. Here again there were numerous prophets who predicted misfortunes, and only a few believers. In 1936 the introduction of compulsory armed service. After that militarization of the Rhineland, again a process believed to be impossible at that time. The number of people who put trust in me, was very small. Then the beginning of the fortification of the whole country especially in the west.

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. Moltke often made the same calculations in his time. Under pressure the decision came to fight with Poland first. One might accuse me of wanting to fight and fight again. In struggle I see the fate of all beings. Nobody can avoid a struggle if he does not want to lose out. The increasing number of people requires a larger living space [Lebensraum]. My goal was to create a logical relation between the number of people and the space for them to live in. The struggle must start here. No people can get away from the solution of this task or else it must yield and gradually die out. That is taught by history. First migration of peoples to the southwest, then adaptation of the number of people to the small space by emigration. In the last years, adaptation of the people to insufficient space, by reducing the number of births. This would lead to the death and weakening of the blood of the people. If a people chooses that course all their weaknesses are mobilized. One yields to the force of the outside and uses this force against one's self by killing of the child. This means the greatest cowardice, decimation of the number, and loss of value. I decided a different way: adaptation of the living space to the number of people. One acknowledgement is important. The state has a meaning only if it supports the maintenance of its population potential. In our case 82 millions of people were concerned. That means the greatest responsibility. He who does not want to assume this responsibility is not worthy of belonging to the mass of the people. That gave me the strength to fight. It is one eternal problem to bring the number of Germans to a proper relationship to the available space. Security of the needed space. No calculated cleverness is of any help, solution only with the sword. A people unable to produce the strength to fight must withdraw. Struggles are different than those of 100 years ago. Today we can speak of a racial fight. Today we fight for oilfields, rubber, treasures of the earth, etc. After the peace of Westphalia Germany disintegrated. Disintegration, impotence of the German Reich was determined by decree. This German impotence was removed by the creation of the Reich when Prussia realized her task. Then the opposition between France and England began. Since 1870 England has been against us. Bismarck and Moltke were certain that there would have to be one more action. The danger at that time was of a two-front war. Moltke was at times in favor of a preventive war. To take advantage of the slow progress of the Russian mobilization. German armed might was not fully employed. Insufficient sternness of the leading personalities. The basic thought of Moltke was the offensive. He never thought of the defense. Many opportunities were missed after Moltke's death. The solution was only possible by attacking a country at a favorable moment. Political and military leadership always declared that it was not yet ready. In 1914 there came the war on several fronts. It did not bring the solution of these problems. Today the second act of this drama is being written. For the first time in 67 years it must be made clear that we do not have a two-front war to wage. That which has been desired since 1870 and considered as impossible of achievement has come to pass. For the first time in history we have to fight on only one front, the other front is at present free. But no one can know how long that will remain so. I have doubted for a long time whether I should strike in the east and then in the west. 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. If the Polish war was won so quickly, it was due to the superiority of our armed forces. The most glorious appearance in history. Unexpectedly small expenditures of men and material. Now the eastern front is held by only a few divisions. It is a situation which we viewed previously as unachievable. Now the situation is as follows: The opponent in the west lies behind his fortifications. There is no possibility of coming to grips with him. The decisive question is: how long can we endure this situation? Russia is at present not dangerous. It is weakened by many incidents today. Moreover, we have a pact with Russia. Pacts, however, are only held as long as they serve the purpose. Russia will hold herself to it only so long as Russia considers it to be to her benefit. Even Bismarck thought so. Let one think of the pact to assure our back. Now Russia has far-reaching goals, above all the strengthening of her position in the Baltic. We can oppose Russia only when we are free in the West. Further Russia is striving to increase her influence on the Balkans and is striving toward the Persian Gulf. That is also the goal of our foreign policy. Russia will do that which she considers to benefit her. At the present moment it has retired from internationalism. In case she renounces this, she will proceed to Pan-Slavism. It is difficult to see into the future. It is a fact that at the present time the Russian army is of little worth. For the next one or two years the present situation will remain.

Much depends on Italy, above all on Mussolini, whose death could alter everything. Italy has a great goal for the consolidation of her empire. Those who carry this idea are fascism and the Duce, personally. The court is opposed to that. As long as the Duce lives, then it can be calculated that Italy will seize every opportunity to reach her imperialistic goal. However, it is too much to ask of Italy, that it should join in the battle before Germany has seized the offensive in the west: Just so Russia did not attack until we had marched into Poland. Otherwise Italy will think that France has only to deal with Italy, since Germany is sitting behind its West Wall. Italy will not attack until Germany has taken the offensive against France. Just as the death of Stalin, so the death of the Duce can bring danger to us. Just how easily the death of a statesman can come I myself have experienced recently. The time must be used to the full, otherwise one will suddenly find himself faced with a new situation. As long as Italy maintains this position then no danger from Jugoslavia is to be feared. Just so is the neutrality of Rumania achieved by the position of Russia. Scandinavia is hostile to us because of Marxistic influences, but is neutral now. America is still not dangerous to us because of its neutrality laws. The strengthening of our opponents by America is still not important. The position of Japan is still uncertain, it is not yet certain whether she will join against England.

Everything is determined by the fact that the moment is favorable now; in 6 months it might not be so anymore.

As the last factor I must name my own person in all modesty: irreplaceable. Neither a military nor a civil person could replace me. Assassination attempts may be repeated. I am convinced of the powers of my intellect and of decision. Wars are always ended only by the destruction of the opponent. Everyone who believes differently is irresponsible. Time is working for our adversary. Now there is a relationship of forces which can never be more propitious, but can only deteriorate for us. The enemy will not make peace when the relationship of forces is unfavorable for us. No compromise. Sternness against ourselves. I shall strike and not capitulate. The fate of the Reich depends only on me. I shall deal accordingly. Today we have a superiority such as we have never had before. After 1914 our opponents disarmed themselves of their own accord. England disregarded the construction of her fleet. The fleet is no longer sufficiently large to safeguard the shipping lanes. Only two modern new constructions: Rodney and Nelson. New construction activity only in the cruisers of the Washington class, which were, however, an unsatisfactory type. The new measures can become effective only in 1941. In the Abyssinian war England did not have enough strength to occupy the Tana Sea. At Malta, Gibraltar and London little anti-aircraft protection. Since 1937 a renewal of rearmament. At present however, only a small number of divisions, which must form the nucleus of new divisions. Material for the army being gathered together from all over the world. Not before next summer is a positive action to be expected. The British army has only a symbolic meaning. Rearmament in the air is proceeding. The first phase will end in the spring of 1940. Antiaircraft has only guns from the last war. A German flyer is safe from English anti-aircraft fire at 6000 meters altitude. The navy will not be fully rearmed before one to two years [1-2 Jahren]. I have the greatest experience in rearmament and I know the difficulties which must be overcome therein.

After 1914 France reduced the length of service. After 1914 decrease of military might. Only in some special branches are we inferior. Only the French Navy was modernized. In the time after the war the French army deteriorated. There were no changes until Germany rearmed and announced her demands.

In summary:

1. The number of active organizations in Germany is greatest.

2. Superiority of the Luftwaffe.

3. Anti-aircraft beyond all competition.

4. Tank corps.

5. Large number of anti-tank guns, five times as many as 1914 machine guns.

6. German artillery has great superiority because of the 10.5 gun.

7. French superiority in howitzers and mortars does not exist.

Numerical superiority, but also the value of the individual soldier is greater than for the others. I am most deeply pained when I hear the opinion that the German army is not individually as valuable as it should be. The infantry in Poland did not accomplish what one should have expected from it. Lax discipline. I believe that the soldiers must be judged in their relative value in comparison with the opponent. There is no doubt that our armed forces are the best. Every German infantryman is better than the French. Not the exhilaration of patriotism but tough determination. I am told that the troops will only advance if the officers lead the way. In 1914 that was also the case. I am told that we were better trained then. In reality we were only better trained on the drill field, but not for the war. I must pay the present leadership the compliment that it is better than it was in 1914. Mention of the collapse while storming Liege. There was nothing like this in the campaign in Poland.

Five million Germans have been called to the colors. Of what importance if a few of them collapse. Daring in the army, navy and Luftwaffe. I can not bear it when one says the army is not in good shape. Everything lies in the hands of the military leader. I can do anything with the German soldier if he is well led. We have succeeded with our small navy in clearing the North Sea of the British. Recognition of the small navy, especially the High Command of the Navy.

We have a Luftwaffe which has succeeded in safeguarding the entire living space of the Germans.

The land army achieved outstanding things in Poland. Even in the West it was not shown that the German soldier is inferior to the French.

Revolution from within is impossible. We are superior to the enemy numerically in the West. Behind the Army stands the strongest armament industry of the world.

I am disturbed by the stronger and stronger appearance of the English. The English are a tough enemy. Above all on defence. There is no doubt that England will be very much represented in France at the latest in six to eight months.

We have an Achilles heel: The Ruhr. The progress of the war depends on the possession of the Ruhr. If England and France push through Belgium and Holland into the Ruhr, we shall be in the greatest danger. That could lead to the paralyzing of the German power of resistance. Every hope of compromise is childish: Victory or defeat! The question is not the fate of a national socialistic Germany, but who is to dominate Europe in the future. The question is worthy of the greatest efforts. Certainly England and France will assume the offensive against Germany when they are armed. England and France have means of pressure to bring Belgium and Holland to request English and French help. In Belgium and Holland the sympathies are all for France and England. Mention of the incident at Venlo: The man who was shot was not an Englishman, but a Dutch General Staff officer. This was kept silent in the press. The Dutch government asked that the body of the Dutch officer be given up. This is one of their greatest stupidities. The Dutch press does not even mention the incident anymore. At a given time I shall use that to motivate my action. If the French army marches into Belgium in order to attack us, it will be too late for us. We must anticipate them. One more thing. U-boats, mines, and Luftwaffe (also for mines) can strike England effectively, if we have a better starting point. Now a flight to England demands so much fuel that sufficient bomb loads cannot be carried. The invention of a new type mine is of greatest importance for the Navy. Aircraft will be the chief mine layers now. We shall sow the English coast with mines which cannot be cleared. This mine warfare with the Luftwaffe demands a different starting point. England cannot live without its imports. We can feed ourselves. The permanent sowing of mines on the English coasts will bring England to her knees. However, this can only occur if we have occupied Belgium and Holland. It is a difficult decision for me. None has ever achieved what I have achieved. My life is of no importance in all this. I have led the German people to a great height, even if the world does hate us now. I am setting this work on a gamble. I have to choose between victory or destruction. I choose victory. Greatest historical choice, to be compared with the decision of Frederick the Great before the first Silesian war. Prussia owes its rise to the heroism of one man. Even there the closest advisers were disposed to capitulation. Everything depended on Frederick the Great. Even the decisions of Bismarck in 1866 and 1870 were no less great. My decision is unchangeable. I shall attack France and England at the most favorable and quickest moment. Breach of the neutrality of Belgium and Holland is meaningless. No one will question that when we have won. We shall not bring about the breach of neutrality as idiotically as it was in 1914. If we do not break the neutrality, then England and France will. Without attack the war is not to be ended victoriously. I consider it as possible to end the war only by means of an attack. The question as to whether the attack will be successful no one can answer. Everything depends upon the favorable instant. The military conditions are favorable. A prerequisite however, is that the leadership must give an example of fanatical unity from above. There would not be any failures if the leaders always had the courage a rifleman must have.

Individual acknowledgments: The enemy must be beaten only by attack. Chances are different today than during the offensive of 1918. Numerically we can use more than 100 divisions. With respect to men, reserves can be supplied. The material situation is good. Moreover that which is not ready today must be ready tomorrow. The whole thing means the end of the World War, not just of a single action. It concerns not just a single question but the existence or non-existence of the nation.

I ask you to pass on the spirit of determination to the lower echelons.

1. The decision is irrevocable.

2. The only prospect for success, if the whole armed forces are determined.

The spirit of the great men of our history must hearten us all. Fate demands from us no more than from the great men of German history. As long as I live I shall think only of the victory of my people. I shall shrink from nothing and shall destroy everyone who is opposed to me. I have decided to live my life so that I can stand unshamed if I have to die. I want to destroy the enemy. Behind me stands the German people, whose morale can only grow worse. Only he who struggles with destiny can have a good intuition. In the last years I have experienced many examples of intuition. Even in the present development I see the prophecy.

If we come through this struggle victoriously -- and we shall come through victoriously -- our time will enter into the history of our people. I shall stand or fall in this struggle. I shall never survive the defeat of my people. No capitulation to the outside forces, no revolution from the interior forces.


Readers interested in this subject may want to take a look at the thread "The Hossbach conference (Text)" at:

viewtopic.php?t=55420
Last edited by David Thompson on 12 Nov 2004 18:01, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby David Thompson » 10 Nov 2004 20:47

Same sentiments, expressed three months earlier:

Document 798-PS, The Fuehrer's speech to the Commanders in Chief on 22 August 1939, in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III: US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1947. pp. 581-586.

The Fuehrer's speech to the Commanders in Chief on 22 August 1939

I have called you together to give you a picture of the political situation, in order that you may have insight into the individual elements on which I have based my decision to act and in order to strengthen your confidence.

After this we will discuss military details.

It was clear to me that a conflict with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in spring, but I thought that I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only afterwards against the East. But the sequence cannot be fixed. One cannot close one's eyes even before a threatening situation. I wanted to establish an acceptable relationship with Poland in order to fight first against the West. But this plan, which was agreeable to me, could not be executed, since essential points have changed. It became clear to me, that Poland would attack us in case of a conflict with the West. Poland wants access to the sea. The further development became obvious after the occupation of the Memel region, and it became clear to me that under circumstances a conflict with Poland could arise at an inopportune moment. I enumerate as reasons for this reflection:

1. First of all two personal constitutions:

My own personality and that of Mussolini.

Essentially it depends on me, my existence, because of my political activities. Furthermore the fact that probably no one will ever again have the confidence of the whole German people as I do. There will probably never again be a man in the future with more authority than I have. My existence is therefore a factor of great value. But I can be eliminated at any time by a criminal or an idiot.

The second personal factor is the Duce. His existence is also decisive. If something happens to him, Italy's loyalty to the alliance will no longer be certain. The basic attitude of the Italian court is against the Duce. Above all, the court sees in the expansion of the empire a burden. The Duce is the man with the strongest nerves in Italy.

The third factor favorable for us is Franco. We can ask only benevolent neutrality from Spain. But this depends on Franco's personality. He guarantees a certain uniformity and steadiness of the present system in Spain. We must take into account the fact that Spain does not as yet have a Fascist party of our internal unity.

On the other side a negative picture as far as decisive personalities are concerned. There is no outstanding personality in England or France.

For us it is easy to make decision. We have nothing to lose; we can only gain. Our economic situation is such, because of our restrictions, that we cannot hold out more than a few years. Goering can confirm this. We have no other choice, we must act. Our opponents risk much and can gain only a little. England's stake in a war is unimaginably great. Our enemies have men who are below average. No personalities. No masters, no men of action.

Besides the personal factor, the political situation is favorable for us; in the Mediterranean rivalry among Italy, France, and England, in the Orient tension, which leads to the alarming of the Mohammedan world.

The English empire did not emerge from the last war strengthened. From a maritime point of view, nothing was achieved. Conflict between England and Ireland. The South African Union became more independent. Concessions had to be made to India. England is in great danger. Unhealthy industries. A British statesman can look into the future only with concern.

France's position has also deteriorated particularly in the Mediterranean.

Further favorable factors for us are these:

Since Albania there is an equilibrium of power in the Balkans. Yugoslavia carries the germ of collapse because of her internal situation.

Rumania did not grow stronger. She is liable to attack and vulnerable. She is threatened by Hungary and Bulgaria. Since Kemal's death, Turkey has been ruled by small minds, unsteady, weak men.

All these fortunate circumstances will no longer prevail in 2 to 3 years. No one knows how long I shall live. Therefore conflict better now.

The creation of Greater Germany was a great achievement politically, but militarily it was questionable, since it was achieved through a bluff of the political leaders. It is necessary to test the military. If at all possible, not by general settlement, but by solving individual tasks.

The relation to Poland has become unbearable. My Polish policy hitherto was in contrast to the ideas of the people. My propositions to Poland (Danzig corridor) were disturbed by England's intervention. Poland changed her tone toward us. The initiative cannot be allowed to pass to the others. This moment is more favorable than in 2 to 3 years. An attempt on my life or Mussolini's could change the situation to our disadvantage. One cannot eternally stand opposite one another with cocked rifle. A suggested compromise would have demanded that we change our convictions and make agreeable gestures. They talked to us again in the language of Versailles. There was danger of losing prestige. Now the probability is still great that the West will not interfere. We must accept the risk with reckless resolution. A politician must accept a risk as much as a military leader. We are facing the alternative to strike or to be destroyed with certainty sooner or later.

Reference to previous risks.
I would have been stoned if I had not carried my point. The most dangerous step was the invasion of the neutral zone. Only a week before, I got a warning through France. I have always accepted a great risk in the conviction that it may succeed.

Now it is also a great risk. Iron nerves, iron resolution.

The following special reasons strengthen my idea. England and France are obligated, neither is in a position for it. There is no actual rearmament in England, just propaganda. It has done much damage that many reluctant Germans said and wrote to Englishmen after the solution of the Czech question: The Fuehrer carried his point because you lost your nerve, because you capitulated too soon. This explains the present propaganda war. The English speak of a war of nerves. It is one element of this war of nerves to present the increase of armament. But how is British rearmament in actual fact ? The construction program of the Navy for 1938 has not yet been filled. Only mobilization of the reserve fleet. Purchase of fishing steamers. Considerable strengthening of the Navy, not before 1941 or 1942.

Little has been done on land. England will be able to send a maximum of 3 divisions to the continent. A little has been done for the air force, but it is only a beginning. AA defense is in its beginning stages. At the moment England has only 150 AA guns. The new AA gun has been ordered. It will take a long time until enough have been produced. Fire directors are lacking. England is still vulnerable from the air. This can change in 2 to 3 years. At the moment the English air force has only 130000 men, France 72000 men, Poland 15000 men. England does not want the conflict to break out for two or three years.

The following is characteristic for England. Poland wanted a loan from England for rearmament. England, however, only gave credit in order to make sure that Poland buys in England, although England cannot deliver. This means that England does not really want to support Poland. She does not risk 8 millions pounds in Poland, although she put half a billion into China. England's position in the world is very precarious. She will not accept any risks.

France lacks men (decline of the birth rate). Little has been done for rearmament. The artillery is antiquated. France did not want to enter on this adventure. The West has only two possibilities to fight against us:

1. Blockade: It will not be effective because of our autarchy and because we have sources of aid in the east.

2. Attack from the west from the Maginot line: I consider this impossible.

Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgium, and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubts that all these states as well as Scandinavia will defend their neutrality by all available means. England and France will not violate the neutrality of those countries. Actually England cannot help Poland. There remains an attack on Italy. A military attack is out of the question. No one is counting on a longer war. If Mr. von Brauchitsch had told me that I would need 4 years to conquer Poland I would have replied: then it cannot be done. It is nonsense to say that England wants to wage a long war.

We will hold our position in the West until we have conquered Poland. We must be conscious of our great production. It is much bigger than in 1914-1918.

The enemy had another hope, that Russia would become our enemy after the conquest of Poland. The enemy did not count on my great power of resolution. Our enemies are little worms. I saw them in Munich.

I was convinced that Stalin would never accept the England offer. Russia has no interest in maintaining Poland and Stalin knows that it is the end of his regime no matter whether his soldiers come out of a war victoriously or beaten. Litvinow's replacement was decisive. I brought about the change toward Russia gradually. In connection with the commercial treaty we got into political conversation. Proposal of a non-aggression pact. Then came a general proposal from Russia. Four days ago I took a special step, which brought it about that Russia answered yesterday that she is ready to sign. The personal contract with Stalin is established. The day after tomorrow von Ribbentrop will conclude the treaty. Now Poland is in the position in which I wanted her.

We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal, lead and zinc. It is a big arm, which demands great efforts. I am only afraid that at the last minute some Schweinhund [literally, swineherd's dog; figuratively, filthy person] will make a proposal for mediation.

The political arm is set farther. A beginning has been made for the destruction of England's hegemony. The way is open for the soldier, after I have made the political preparations.

Today's publication of the non-aggression pact with Russia hit like a shell. The consequences cannot be overlooked. Stalin also said that this course will be of benefit to both countries. The effect on Poland will be tremendous.

Goering answers with thanks to the Fuehrer and the assurance that the armed forces will do their duty.

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Postby David Thompson » 10 Nov 2004 23:06

Document 1014-PS, Second speech by the Fuehrer on 22 August 1939, in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III: US Government Printing Office, US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1946 pp. 655-656

It may also turn out differently regarding England and France. One cannot predict it with certainty. I figure on a trade-barrier not on blockade, and with severance of relations. Most iron determination on our side. Retreat before nothing. Everybody shall have to make a point of it that we were determined from the beginning to fight the Western powers. Struggle for life or death. Germany has won every war as long as she was united. Iron, unflinching attitude of all superiors, greatest confidence, faith in victory, overcoming of the past by getting used to heaviest strain. A long period of peace would not do us any good. Therefore it is necessary to expect everything. Manly bearing. It is not machines that fight each other. We have the better quality of men.Mental factors are decisive. The opposite camp has weaker people. In 1918, the Nation fell down because the mental prerequisites were not sufficient. Frederic the Great secured final success only through his mental power.

Destruction of Poland in the foreground. The aim is elimination of living forces, not the arrival at a certain line: Even if war should break out in the West, the destruction of Poland shall be the primary objective. Quick decision because of the season.

I shall give a propagandistic cause for starting the war -- never mind whether it be plausible or not. The victor shall not be asked, later on, whether we told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not the Right is what matters but Victory.

Have no pity. Brutal attitude. 80 million people shall get what is their right. Their existence has to be secured. The strongest has the Right. Greatest severity.

Quick decision necessary. Unshakable faith in the German soldier. A crisis may happen only if the nerves of the leaders give way.

First aim; advance to the Vistula and Narew. Our technical superiority will break the nerves of the Poles. Every newly created Polish force shall again be broken at once. Constant war of attrition.

New German frontier according to healthy principles. Possibly a protectorate as a buffer. Military operations shall not be influenced by these reflections. Complete destruction of Poland is the military aim. To be fast is the main thing. Pursuit until complete elimination.

Conviction that the German Wehrmacht is up to the requirements. The start shall be ordered, probably by Saturday morning.

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Postby David Thompson » 14 Jan 2005 05:01

See also:

Fuehrer Memorandum and Directives for Conduct of the War in the West, 19 October 1939
viewtopic.php?p=620178#620178
Indoctrination on the political situation and future aims, 23 May 1939
viewtopic.php?p=620869#620869

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Postby varjag » 15 Jan 2005 12:42

David - of course he did! But you gotta give the guy the benefit of vision. Hitler wasn't your everyday politician - worrying about the next election - Hitler was a historical phenomenon. He dreamed about global revision - an aryan empire from the Atlantic to the Urals, from the Arctic to the Persian Gulf - a millenium of white supremacy, dreams of dimensions not dreamt since Alexander of Macedonia. His tool - the German people - wasn't 'up to the task' - but yet so it was a beautiful dream - of a superb dreamer.

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Postby David Thompson » 16 Jan 2005 05:57

varjag -- There has never been a time in my life for a dream, based on racism, slavery and murder, to be beautiful to me.

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Postby varjag » 17 Jan 2005 01:51

David Thompson wrote:varjag -- There has never been a time in my life for a dream, based on racism, slavery and murder, to be beautiful to me.
David - u're absolutely right, 'beautiful' was a very bad choice of word in that context and I apologize for using it.

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Re: Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby ARCADIA » 11 Apr 2008 04:31

Thanks for posting the speeches; it's always best when we you hear the devil's own words.

Reviewing the speeches, I was struck by how much "wonky" stuff there was - cataloguing weaponry, geo-political issues, re-armanent plans, battleship classes, etc. And, truth - Hitler's assessments of his political counterparts in France and England (this was before Churchill), the hard of look at the pact with Russia, the importance of his political achievements and even of his mere existence.

All mixed in with bunch of lies and sophist arguments - Poland will invade, Poland is some sort of menance, peace will lead to decay and eventual destruction, the threat of English/French rearmanent, etc.

And a few dashes of flattery, ever so subtly mixed in - the German soldier is the best ever, general so-and-so promised to conquer Poland quickly, etc. And, of course, the ultimate flattery -- I the Fuehrer am sharing my most personal thoughts with you, my audience. (Which is states directly and with emphasis)

Good stuff.
It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it.
Robert E. Lee (1807 - 1870), Statement at the Battle of Fredericksburg (13th December 1862)

David Thompson
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Re: Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby David Thompson » 24 Aug 2012 16:17

Here are the German Foreign Ministry memoranda of a conference between Hitler and the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, at Obersalzberg on 12-13 Aug 1939. There are two parts -- a memorandum of the conference on 12 August 1939 and a memorandum from the following day. The texts are taken from Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918-45, Series D, vol. 7, August 9 - September 3 1939. This is part 1:

No. 43
F510084-102
Memorandum by an Official of the Foreign Minister's Secretariat
SALZBURG, August 12, 1939.

RECORD OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE FÜHRER AND THE ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, COUNT CIANO, IN THE PRESENCE OF THE REICH FOREIGN MINISTER AT THE OBERSALZBERG ON AUGUST 12, 1939.[1]

The Führer opened the conversation by explaining to Count Ciano, by means of maps, the present position of Germany from the military point of view. In particular he stressed the strength of Germany's Western fortifications. In the West there were three points for a break through, and in former times the French had always attempted to break through there for geographical and strategic reasons; but these points had now been protected with special care, so that a break through appeared impossible there too. Besides, Western defences had also been constructed along the Luxembourg-Belgian frontier right up to the Dutch frontier, so that a violation of Belgian neutrality would no longer mean any military advantages for France, but at most would entail the risk of Belgium joining Germany in order to
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1 See also Editors' Note, p. 35.

40 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

defend Belgian neutrality and also on account of pressure from the Flemish section of the population. Thus, in theory, the only remaining possibility of attack was through the Netherlands. But, in the Führer's opinion, the Netherlands, too, would defend their neutrality energetically, because they knew that by participating in a general conflict they would lose to Japan their Far Eastern colonies, which were practically undefended. Moreover, because of the numerous rivers and canals and the possibility of flooding large stretches of the land below sea level, the Netherlands were completely unsuitable terrain for the deployment of a major army. In the event of any violation of Dutch neutrality, Germany would naturally enter the country at once, and, in view of the very slight distance from the German frontier to the Meuse, Germany would be able to advance right up to the Meuse within a few hours. Besides, the Rhine, which in Holland was 1 to 1 1/2 kilometres wide, provided a natural defence against attacks from this direction.

The third possibility of attacking Germany was a blockade by the English Navy. However, it should be borne in mind that the blockading ships could be attacked from the air from Germany, since, as a result of the long range of the latest German bombers, the whole of England was within reach of attack by the German Luftwaffe. There were no further possibilities of any kind for attacking Germany. The Northern countries would doubtless remain neutral, and were also safe from attack from any quarter because the occupation of such large territories as Norway and Sweden could scarcely enter into consideration. In the same way Switzerland would be certain to defend her neutrality to the utmost against any intruder.

Germany had also constructed strong fortifications in the East. The Führer showed Ciano the various systems of fortifications in East Prussia (Königsberg, the Heilsberg triangle and the frontier fortifications). There were also strong fortifications under construction on the remaining Reich frontiers (Grenzmark, Silesia), which, especially on the Polish frontier opposite Berlin, had been extended to form an impregnable system of lines one behind the other. Berlin, however, which was only 150 kilometres from the Polish frontier, was very much exposed to air attacks, especially since the great expanse of Berlin (28 kilometres north to south and 45 kilometres east to west) rendered possible the bombing of the city from a very great height (8000 to 9000 metres) without any definite targets being attacked, but with the certainty that the bombs would fall somewhere in the city area.

Passing on to the military situation of the Western Powers and Poland, the Führer again drew attention to England's vulnerability from the air. Although aircraft production had made progress, antiaircraft defence was nevertheless still greatly in arrears. He knew

AUGUST, 1939 41

that England had not decided upon a certain type of anti-aircraft gun until last autumn, and, from his own seven years of rearmament, he had enough experience to know that production on a major scale was only possible a considerable while after a prototype had been selected, so that an effective anti-aircraft defence could not emerge in England under from one to two years' time. Besides, the same disadvantage applied to London, and the big cities and industrial centres, as to Berlin in relation to Polish air attacks : namely that bombing from great heights, which would certainly find its mark within the general target area, could be carried out with complete impunity out of range of England's anti-aircraft guns, dating as they do from the last war.

At sea, England had, at the moment, still achieved no increase. Of the ships under construction, the first units could not be put into commission for some time. As far as the army was concerned, since the introduction of conscription, 60,000 men had now been called up. If England retained the requisite troops on her own soil, she would be able, at most, to place two infantry divisions and one armoured division at the disposal of France. In addition, she would be able to transfer a few bomber squadrons but no fighter squadrons to France, since, at the outbreak of war, the German fleet would immediately attack England, and English fighter planes would be urgently required for the defence of their own country.

With regard to the position of France, the Führer observed that, in the event of a general conflict, after the defeat of Poland, which could be expected within a short time, Germany would be in a position to concentrate 100 divisions on the West Wall, which would force France to concentrate all her available forces from the colonies, the Italian frontier, and elsewhere, on her own Maginot Line for the life and death struggle which would then commence. Furthermore, he was of the opinion that it was no more possible for the French to overrun the Italian fortifications than the West Wall.

At this point Count Ciano showed signs of being very doubtful.

The quality of the Polish army was extremely uneven. Alongside a few crack divisions there was a host of units of inferior quality. Poland's anti-tank and anti-aircraft defences were very weak. At present France and England could send her no supplies. But, if Poland were given economic assistance by the West over a fairly long period, she could secure these arms, and Germany's superiority would thereby be diminished. Over and against the fanatics in Warsaw and Cracow there was a rural population in other districts which was quite indifferent. Furthermore, the composition of the population of the Polish State should be taken into account : of the 34 million inhabitants there were 11 million Germans, some 4 million Jews and approximately 9 million Ukrainians, so that considerably less than the total population were actual Poles, and, as he had already said, even the

42 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

fighting qualities of the Poles could not be considered uniform. In these circumstances, Poland would be defeated by Germany in a very short time.

As Poland's whole attitude made it plain that in any conflict she would always be on the side of the opponents of Germany and Italy, her speedy liquidation could only be an advantage at the present moment in the inevitable clash with the Western democracies. If a hostile Poland remained in existence on Germany's Eastern frontier, then there would be tied up not only the eleven East Prussian divisions, but also further contingents in Pomerania and Silesia, which would not be the case if Poland had been previously liquidated. Speaking in purely general terms, it would be much the best if the false neutrals were liquidated one after the other. This could be done comparatively simply if one Axis partner covered the other each time one partner was engaged in disposing of an unreliable neutral, and vice versa. For Italy, Yugoslavia should probably be regarded as one of these unreliable neutrals. On the occasion of the visit of the Prince Regent,[2] the Führer, with Italy particularly in mind, had suggested to Prince Paul that he should clarify his political attitude towards the Axis by means of some gesture. The Führer had had in mind a closer link with the Axis and Yugoslavia's withdrawal from the League of Nations. The latter Prince Paul had promised. The Prince Regent had been in London recently[3] and had sought guarantees from the Western Powers. This was a repetition of experiences with Gafencu, who had also been extremely reasonable on his visit to Germany[4] and had disclaimed any interest in the aims of the Western democracies. Afterwards, however, as was learned later, he had adopted the opposite point of view when in England. The only one of the Balkan countries on which the Axis could entirely depend was Bulgaria, who was, as it were, the natural ally of Italy and Germany. For this reason Germany had helped Bulgaria as much as possible with supplies of arms, and would also continue to do so. Yugoslavia would only remain neutral as long as it was dangerous to go over openly to the side of the Western democracies. As soon as matters took a turn for the worse for Germany and Italy, Yugoslavia would go over openly to the other side in the hope of thereby giving the course of events a final turn to the disadvantage of the Axis. Rumania was afraid of Hungary, and was extremely weak militarily and corrupt internally. King Carol would doubtless not abandon his neutrality unless it was necessary.

Hungary was friendly, and Slovakia was under German influence and even had German garrisons in some parts of the country.
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[2] June 1-5, 1939. See vol. vi of this Series, document No. 474.
[3] July 17—Aug. 2, 1939. See document No. 17.
[4] Apr. 18-20. See vol. vi of this Series, documents Nos. 227 and 234.

AUGUST, 1939 43

Reverting to the Danzig question the Führer explained that it was impossible for him to yield here. He had agreed with Italy that the Germans should be withdrawn from the South Tyrol,[5] but for this very reason he was now obliged to avoid at all costs anything which might give the impression that the withdrawal of the Germans from the South Tyrol constituted a precedent which could be applied in other territories. Besides, his justification to the German people for the withdrawal of these Germans from Italy was the general trend of German policy towards the East and North-East. The East and North-East, i.e., the countries on the Baltic Sea, had been Germany's undisputed sphere of influence from time immemorial, just as the Mediterranean was Italy's peculiar sphere. For economic reasons, too, Germany needed the grain and timber producing lands of these Eastern regions. In the case of Danzig, it was not purely material interests which were at stake, although this city was the greatest Baltic port. The turnover in tonnage amounted to 40 per cent of Hamburg's. Danzig, the Nuremberg of the North, was an ancient German city, which aroused sentimental feelings in every German, and it was precisely this psychological element which also forced the Führer to take popular feeling into account. In order to make the situation more comprehensible to the Italian mind, Count Ciano should try to imagine Trieste in Yugoslav hands and a strong Italian minority on Yugoslav soil being treated with brutal force. It could hardly be assumed that Italy would tolerate that for long.

Count Ciano replied to the Führer's statement by referring first to Italy's great surprise at the entirely unexpected gravity of the situation. No indication had been given by Germany, either in the conversations at Milan,[6] or in the talks during his visit to Berlin,[7] that the situation in respect of Poland was so grave. On the contrary the Reich Foreign Minister had stated that, in his opinion, the Danzig question would be settled in due course. On the basis of this state of affairs, the Duce, faithful to his conviction that a clash with the Western democracies was inevitable, had set himself the task of making his preparations for this contingency, and had made his plans to spread over a definite period of from two to three years. If a conflict now were inescapable, Italy, as the Duce had again emphasized on Count Ciano's departure, would naturally be entirely on Germany's side, but for various reasons, which had been set forth in detail, she would welcome the postponement of a general conflict to a later date.

Count Ciano then described, with the aid of a map, the position of Italy on the outbreak of a general conflict. Italy, he explained,
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[5] See ibid., documents Nos. 143, 163, 318 and 562.
[6] On May 6 and 7. See ibid., document No. 341.
[7] May 21-22, for the signing of the German-Italian Pact of Friendship and Alliance. See ibid., document No. 426. See also the Ciano Diaries, entries of May 21 and 22.

44 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

believed that a conflict with Poland would not remain limited to that country but would develop into a general European war.

In reply, the Führer observed that this was the point on which opinions differed. He personally was absolutely convinced that the Western democracies would, in the last resort, recoil from unleashing a general war.

Count Ciano replied that he hoped the Führer would prove right but he did not believe it. In any case they ought, in their calculations, to allow for the most unfavourable contingency, i.e., a general conflict. Since the conflict in Abyssinia, Italy had, as a matter of fact, constantly lived in a sort of state of war, and was therefore in urgent need of a respite. By means of detailed figures, Count Ciano demonstrated how great Italy's material efforts had been, especially in the Spanish war. Italy's stocks of raw materials were completely exhausted. She must have time to replenish her stores.

Italy would also have to transfer her war industries to the South in order better to defend them, as they were all in exposed positions. In the same way Italian artillery, especially the anti-aircraft branch, was very much in need of modernization. The long coastline and other exposed places were quite inadequately defended.

The strength of her fleet was also extremely unfavourable. At the moment, Italy had only two battleships to set against the eleven or twelve battleships of England and France combined, whereas in a few years' time a total of eight battleships would be available.

Here the Führer interposed that England and France too would certainly have additional battleships of 35,000 and 40,000 tons at their disposal.

Count Ciano drew attention to the long Italian coastline which was difficult to defend, and the numerous bases available to the Anglo-French fleets, with special reference to the Greek ports.

Italy was especially vulnerable at present in her colonies. Libya was indeed difficult to attack from Egypt, but afforded the possibility of advancing towards Mersa Matruh. On the other hand, the situation in Tunis was quite different. The ratio of the Italian and French Arab population was 1:20, while the strength of the white troops was 1:5 against Italy. Furthermore, the Italian fortifications facing the French frontier were completely inadequate. New armoured turrets had only been delivered a short time ago.

Abyssinia was practically pacified except for certain districts along the frontier facing English territories, where the English were fomenting difficulties among the population by means of money and propaganda; only on the surface was everything calm. In a general conflict, leaflets dropped by a few English aircraft over Abyssinia, saying that the world had risen against Italy and that the Negus would return, would be sufficient to cause a revolt by the Abyssinians to

AUGUST, 1939 45

flare up again. Furthermore, in the event of a conflict, Abyssinia would be completely cut off from the mother country, and the fate of the 200,000 Italians in Abyssinia would be entirely uncertain. In a few years' time an army of 400,000 to 500,000 men would be available to be stationed in Abyssinia, and, in the event of a conflict then, such an army could advance successfully against the Sudan, Kenya and French Somaliland.

The Dodecanese Islands would be in difficulties because of the attitude of Turkey. Leros and Rhodes would, however, defend themselves for years.

Albania was a completely undeveloped country, and would only provide an effective base for operations against the Balkans in some years' time. Roads would first have to be built, and the mineral wealth (iron, copper, chrome and petroleum) developed, then, as the Führer had briefly hinted, a successful advance on Salonika and in other directions in the Balkans, as it were along the five fingers of an outstretched hand, could be contemplated.

In the economic field, Italy had plans for autarky which could only be realized after some years, and would then place Italy in a position to last out even a lengthy war without difficulties. A further reason for the Duce's desire to postpone the conflict was the Italians abroad, who were to be systematically brought back to Italy. There were a million Italians living in France, approximately 700,000 of whom were lost to Italy for good. The remaining 300,000 would be used by France as hostages in the event of a conflict, as had already become evident from several measures adopted in France last September.

Furthermore, the Duce personally attached great importance to holding, according to plan, the World Exhibition of 1942, for which Italy was making great preparations and from which she was hoping for favourable results in the economic sphere, especially with regard to receipts of foreign exchange.

However, apart from these considerations based on Italy's position itself, considerations of a general political nature also favoured the postponement of a general conflict. The Duce was convinced that the Western democracies' system of encirclement would doubtless function at the present moment. But once a certain period of time had elapsed, the sources of friction and the seeds of disunity among the partners in the encirclement front would again become very apparent and would gradually cause the front to disintegrate.

Furthermore, the Duce was convinced that the present confident mood in England and France could not last for long. Soon the union sacrée, particularly in France, would give way to party strife provided that the Axis remained quiet for a time. At all events it was at present due to the Axis alone that domestic quarrels were buried in the countries concerned.

46 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

Japan's position would also be considerably strengthened by the ending of the China conflict which was to be expected in two years' time, while Roosevelt's position in America would be greatly shaken after a period of calm in foreign affairs, so that he could not be elected President for a third term, as would assuredly be the case if a conflict were to break out in the immediate future.

Spain, which had just got a pro-Axis Government (Serrano Sutler, Beigbeder),[8] needed a respite after the Civil War, but in two to three years' time she would be on the side of the Axis as a power factor that could not be ignored. Thus, for example, within two years Spain would build four battleships of 35,000 tons, plans for which had recently been brought to Spain by an Italian General. They were to be built at El Ferrol.

For these reasons the Duce was most anxious (le Duce insiste) that a gesture should be made by the Axis which would reaffirm the peaceful intentions of Italy and Germany. This could be done by issuing a communiqué, which Count Ciano had already transmitted to the Reich Foreign Minister the day before, and which he submitted anew in the following English (and French) version.[9]

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Reich, Mr. von Ribbentrop, and the Italian Minister of Foreign. Affairs, Count Galeazzo Ciano, have examined—in the course of their conversations at Salzburg—the general situation in Europe and the problems concerning the common policy of the two allied countries.

"The two Foreign Ministers were able to realize once again on this occasion, the perfect identity of views existing between their Governments, and reaffirm the common decision of Germany and Italy to resist the policy of encirclement promoted by the great democracies and to defend their vital rights, opposing by force any attempt of aggression directed against them.

"At the same time the Foreign Minister of the Reich and the Italian Foreign Minister wished to reaffirm the peaceful intentions of their Governments, and thoughtful of the destinies of Europe, they agreed to state that, according to their opinion, it is still possible to reach—through normal diplomatic negotiations between the various interested Governments—a satisfying solution of the problems which trouble, in such a serious way, the life of Europe."

With regard to his draft communiqué Count Ciano stated that at first the Duce had had in mind the proposal for a conference.[10] He
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[8] Ministers of the Interior and Foreign Affairs respectively in the new Government, which was formed on Aug. 10.
[9] The text which follows is in English in the original; no French version has been found. See also D.D.I., Eighth Series, vol. xn, Nos. 809 and 810.
[10] See vol. vi of this Series, documents Nos. 718 and 737.

AUGUST, 1939 47

had not remained deaf to the Führer's misgivings[11] and was now submitting another more moderate proposal which the Duce was very anxious to have accepted.

Concerning the plan for a conference, the Führer stated that Russia could no longer be excluded from future meetings of the Powers. During the Russo-German talks the Russians, referring to Munich and other occasions on which they had been excluded, had let it be understood that in future they would not tolerate this. Besides the four Great Powers, not only Russia but also Poland would have to be included at such a conference. But this meant that Italy, Germany and Spain would face a front consisting of England, France, Russia and Poland, which was certainly an unfavourable position.

Count Ciano replied that the Duce was of the opinion that the one who would gain at a conference was the one who was prepared, if need be, to let the conference fail and accept the consequences, even if that meant war. Furthermore the Duce had taken the Führer's misgivings into account and had modified his proposal. In a gesture for peace by Italy and Germany such as that contained in this proposal, he saw an advantage in that the Western Powers, who internally were certainly not prepared for war, but would, the Duce was convinced—on the basis of very reliable reports from the democracies—certainly start one at the present moment if they were, so to speak, driven to the wall by the Axis and saw no other way out [sic]. The proposed gesture by Germany and Italy constituted an honourable way out for the Western Powers of which they would assuredly make use; for warnings against war were being widely circulated and such views would naturally be considerably strengthened by a peace gesture. That meant, however, that Poland, from whom the Western Powers would then doubtless draw away, would after a time be isolated and would be obliged to accept reasonable solutions of existing difficulties.

The Führer replied that no time should be lost in solving the Polish problem. The further autumn advanced, the more difficult military operations in Eastern Europe would become. Because of the weather conditions, very little use could be made of the Luftwaffe in these territories from the middle of September, while it would also be impossible to employ motorized forces owing to the state of the roads, which rapidly became a morass after the rains which start in the autumn. From September to May, Poland was one vast swamp and completely unsuitable for any military operations. Thus Poland could simply occupy Danzig in October—and she probably intended to do so—without Germany being able to do anything at all to prevent it; for there was naturally no question of bombing and destroying Danzig.
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[11] No record has been found in the German archives, but see D.D.I., Eighth Series. vol. xii, Nos. 717 and 732.

48 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

Count Ciano asked by what date the Führer thought the Danzig question would have to be settled. The Führer replied that this settlement would have to be made one way or the other by the end of August. In reply to Ciano's question as to what solution the Führer envisaged, the latter said that Poland must give up Danzig politically, but that at the same time her economic interests would naturally be safeguarded, and that, furthermore, she must also by her general attitude contribute towards removing the tension. He doubted whether Poland would be prepared to do this, for hitherto she had rejected Germany's proposals. The Führer had personally made these proposals to Beck on the occasion of the latter's visit to Obersalzberg.[12] They had been extremely favourable to Poland. In exchange for the political return of Danzig to Germany, with full preservation of Polish economic interests, and the establishment of a link between East Prussia and the Reich, Germany had promised a frontier guarantee, a twenty-five-year pact of friendship, and that Poland should have a share in influence on Slovakia. At the time Beck had taken cognizance of the proposal with the remark that he would study it. The brusque rejection of this had come only as a consequence of English intervention. What Poland's other objectives were could be seen quite clearly from the press. The whole of East Prussia was to be taken, it was intended to advance as far as Berlin, etc. It was unbearable for a Great Power to have to tolerate perpetually such a hostile neighbour only 150 kilometres from her capital. The Führer was therefore determined to utilize the opportunity provided by the next act of political provocation—be it in the form of an ultimatum, brutal maltreatment of Germans in Poland, an attempt to starve Danzig out, an entry of Polish troops into Danzig territory, or anything of that kind—to attack Poland within forty-eight hours and solve the problem in that way. This would constitute a considerable strengthening of the Axis, just as the liquidation of Yugoslavia by Italy would constitute a considerable increase in Axis power.

Count Ciano asked when such an operation against Poland was to be expected, since Italy would naturally have to be prepared for all eventualities. The Führer replied that in the present circumstances a move against Poland must be expected at any moment.

During this exchange of views the Führer was handed a telegram from Moscow[13] and one from Tokyo.[14] The conversation was interrupted for a short time and Count Ciano was then informed of
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[12] Jan. 5, 1939. See vol. v of this Series, document No. 119.
[13] No telegram from Moscow corresponding to the ensuing description has been found. The document in question may have been a teleprint from the Foreign Ministry reporting Schnurre's conversation with Astakhov, which took place on Saturday, Aug. 12. See document No. 50.
[14] Possibly document No. 25.

AUGUST, 1939 49

the contents of the Moscow telegram. The Russians agreed to a German political negotiator being sent to Moscow. The Reich Foreign Minister added that the Russians were fully informed about Germany's designs on Poland. He himself, on orders from the Führer, had informed the Russian Charge d'Affaires.[15]

Regarding this, the Führer remarked that in his opinion Russia would not be prepared to pull the Western Powers' chestnuts out of the fire. Stalin's position was just as much in danger from a victorious as from a defeated Russian army. Russia was at the most interested in extending her access to the Baltic Sea. Germany had no objection to this. Besides, Russia would probably never intervene on behalf of Poland whom she thoroughly detested. The sole purpose of sending the Anglo-French Military Mission to Moscow was to conceal the catastrophic state of the political negotiations.

After further conversation on Count Ciano's proposal for a communiqué, the Führer stated that he wished to think over this proposal for a day, as also Count Ciano's remarks on the general situation, and therefore proposed that the negotiations should be resumed the next day.[16]

[SCHMIDT] [17]
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[15] See vol. vi of this Series, document No. 760.
[16] For Ciano's record, which gives the time of this conversation as 2:30-5:45 p.m., see D.D.I., Eighth Series, vol. xiii, No. 4; see also the Ciano Diaries, entry of Aug. 12, 1939.
[17] Taken from another copy (66/46650-65).

David Thompson
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Re: Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby David Thompson » 24 Aug 2012 16:18

Part 2 (final):

No. 47
F5/0055-00
Memorandum by an Official of the Foreign Minister's Secretariat
SALZBURG, August 13, 1939.

RECORD OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE FÜHRER AND COUNT CIANO IN THE PRESENCE OF THE REICH FOREIGN MINISTER AT OBERSALZBERG ON AUGUST 18, 1939.[1]

In his opening remarks the Führer stated that he had once more fully considered the whole situation since the last conversation. The Reich Foreign Minister had informed him in the meantime that, in the prevailing circumstances, Count Ciano agreed that no communiqué should be issued at the conclusion of the conversation. The Führer was also of the opinion that this was the best course. The door would thus remain open for all parties, no one would be committed, and no project would be prevented.

Besides, after reflection, he had come in principle to the same conclusion as that which he had stated in yesterday's conversation, namely that there was a risk of drifting too far into the autumn, so that Poland would find the way open for the achievement of her comparatively limited objectives. She could, by slow blackmail, reduce Danzig to a state of submission, and for such action the terms of the Treaty were extremely favourable for Poland. Danzig could be slowly strangled and exposed to economic ruin, even famine. Danzig could be occupied by Poland without difficulty from the second half of September and especially from the beginning of October onwards. The reconquest of the Corridor and Danzig by Germany would follow, but major military operations would no longer be possible at that time of the year. This would reduce Danzig to ruins. It would no longer be possible for Germany to employ the heavy motorized forces which were required for a deep thrust into Poland.
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[1] For the record of the previous conversation see document No. 43.

54 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

In the event of a hard winter it might indeed be possible to carry out certain military operations, but the fact that both the advanced landing grounds and the normal airfields would become fogbound and waterlogged rendered any commitment of the Luftwaffe impossible. If German airfields were used, flights would be greatly lengthened, the petrol consumption increased and bomb loads considerably reduced. It was therefore of decisive importance, firstly, that within the shortest possible time Poland should make her intentions plain, and secondly, that no further acts of provocation of any sort should be tolerated by Germany. If acts of provocation were passed over now they would have to be tolerated all the more in October, when the tanks and the Luftwaffe could no longer be used. This weakness of Germany, conditioned by the seasons, was very well known to the Polish General Staff and that was why Poland was playing for time. The Führer had thus arrived at two conclusions:

1. If there were any fresh act of provocation, he would take swift action.

2. If Poland did not make her political attitude clear and unmistakable, such a statement of attitude would have to be brought about.

It should not be forgotten that the war of nerves which the Poles had started, by causing constant incidents and acts of provocation, had now been in full swing for three months. Any sign of yielding would, in view of the Slav mentality, be just the thing to cause an outburst of Polish insolence. Any yielding would therefore not strengthen the position as a whole, but would be generally interpreted by other countries as a sign of weakness. If the Western democracies were already firmly resolved to take action against the Axis, they would in no circumstances wait three or four years to put their plan into effect, attacking only after the Axis Powers had finished making their necessary preparations, but would bring about the conflict earlier. But if they had not yet come to a definite decision—as he, the Führer, was inclined to believe, in view of the state of the Western countries' armaments---the best means of restraining them from taking action was to move swiftly against Poland.

Moreover, every successful individual action by one of the Axis partners was tantamount not only to a strategic but also, above all, to a psychological strengthening of the other partner and of the whole Axis. Italy had carried out a series of successful individual actions in Abyssinia, Spain and Albania, and these against the wishes of the democratic entente. These individual actions had not only promoted Italy's local interests in each separate instance, but also greatly strengthened her general position. The same was true of Germany's actions in Austria, Czecho-Slovakia, etc. Here, too, not only had her local interests improved, but also the general position had been

AUGUST, 1939 55

consolidated. The Axis, as such, had gained considerably by this. If one were to imagine that such individual actions had not taken place and what the position of Italy or Germany would then have been, one would come even more definitely to the above conclusion that materially and psychologically these individual actions had benefited the general position in the greatest possible way. The strengthening of the Axis which had thus resulted was of the greatest importance for the inevitable clash with the Western Powers. As matters stood at present, Italy and Germany simply could not go on living in the world owing to lack of space. Now, it was not a question of lack of space, but only that the available space was being completely blocked by its present owners. They sat like misers on their heaps of gold, wallowing drunkenly in their riches without being able to put them to productive use. The Western democracies were guided by the desire to dominate the world and did not regard Germany and Italy as equals. This psychological factor of contempt was perhaps the worst feature of the whole situation. It could only be removed by a life and death struggle, which the two Axis partners could all the better survive, as their interests did not conflict at any point. For historical and geographical reasons, the Mediterranean was incontestably Italy's peculiar sphere, and here she must be accorded supremacy. The Duce had described the situation to him in a striking manner on board the Conte Cavour,[2] by saying that Italy was already the predominant Power in the Mediterranean solely through her geographical position; in reply to which the Führer said that Germany would follow the old Germanic trail to the East, which appeared to be appropriate for economic reasons. That Italy was the predominant Power in the Mediterranean for geographical and historical reasons had, moreover, been clearly realized by Bismarck, the founder of the Second Reich, and expressed in the famous letter to Mazzini.[3] Thus the interests of Germany and Italy lay in quite different directions, and there could never be a conflict of interests.

The Reich Foreign Minister here interpolated that if the two problems referred to by the Führer in yesterday's conversation were solved, Italy and Germany, in a fight against the West, would be free from attack in the rear.

The Führer said that Poland would have to be suppressed to such an extent that she would in no circumstances be capable of fighting for ten years. In this event it would be possible to settle accounts with the West.

Count Ciano thanked the Führer for the extremely clear exposition
___________________________________________________
[2] Presumably during Hitler's visit to Italy in May 1938, when he attended a review of the Italian fleet at Naples.
[3] See E. Diamilla-Muller, Politica Segreta Italian 1863-70 (Turin, 1880), p. 346 ff. cit. Federico Chabod: Scoria della Politica Estera Italiana 1870-1896 (Mari, 1951), vol. i, p. 45.

56 DOCUMENTS ON GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

of the situation. He had nothing to add for his part and would report to the Duce all the details of the information given by the Führer. There was one point perhaps on which he would like to have more precise information, in order to provide the Duce with all the data necessary for assessing the situation. The Duce would probably not have to make any decision, since the Führer had expressed his conviction that the conflict with Poland could be localized. From long experience Count Ciano could say that, so far, the Führer had always been right in his judgement of the situation. But even if Mussolini did not have to make any decision, he would nevertheless want to take certain precautionary measures, and for this reason Count Ciano wished to ask the following question:

The Führer had given two reasons for taking action against Poland. Firstly, if Poland were to commit an act of grave provocation, and secondly, if she did not clarify her political attitude. The acts of provocation would not be dependent on the Führer's will and might occur at any time, thus causing German counter action at any moment. The second case implied, however, a certain time limit. He wished therefore to ask what was the latest date by which, in Germany's view, Poland must clarify her political attitude, and in this connection he fully understood the seasonal conditions governing the situation.

The Führer replied that Poland's political attitude must be clarified by the end of August at the latest, for although the principal and decisive part of the military operations could be carried out within a fortnight, final liquidation would nevertheless still require a further two to four weeks and could therefore not be concluded before the end of September or the beginning of October. Hence, the end of August must be the time limit.

In conclusion the Führer again assured Count Ciano that since his youth he had always supported German-Italian cooperation, and nothing to the contrary could be found in any of his published works. From the very beginning, he had been of the opinion that Germany and Italy were destined by nature to collaborate, because there was no clash of interests between them. He personally was fortunate to live at a time when, apart from himself, there was another statesman living who would stand out in history as a great and unique figure. It was a source of great personal happiness to him that he could be the friend of this man. When the hour struck for the common fight he would always be found at the side of the Duce, come what may.

SCHMIDT[4]
__________________________________________________
[4] For Ciano's record, which gives the time of this conversation as 11:30-12 a.m., see D.D.L, Eighth Series, vol. xiii, No. 21; also the Ciano Diaries, entry of Aug. 13, 1939.

David Thompson
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Re: Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby David Thompson » 08 Sep 2012 18:30

An off-topic post from Panzermahn, which added nothing of informational value to this thread, was removed by the moderator - DT.

michael mills
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Re: Hitler's intent to wage aggressive war

Postby michael mills » 10 Sep 2012 01:15

The title of this thread is biassed, in that it attempts to impose on the reader a particular interpretation of the documents posted.

In fact, an unprejudiced and impartial reading of those documents does not show an intent by Hitler to wage aggressive war. Rather they show Hitler reacting to a situation imposed on him by Britain and France, which had intervened in the dispute between Germany and Poland over Danzig in such a way as to elevate that dispute into a casus belli.

In that respect, the record of Hitler's conversations with Ciano on 12 and 13 August is particularly instructive. It shows Hitler as prepared to launch a preventive strike against Poland if that country persists in taking advantage of the support given to it by Britain and France to adopt an increasingly aggressive attitude toward Danzig. They also show him as preapred to refrain from such a preventive strike if Poland changes its attitude and is prepared to compromise on the basis of the moderate and balanced proposals made by Germany since October 1938.

For example, on 12 August Hitler says:

Germany had also constructed strong fortifications in the East. The Führer showed Ciano the various systems of fortifications in East Prussia (Königsberg, the Heilsberg triangle and the frontier fortifications). There were also strong fortifications under construction on the remaining Reich frontiers (Grenzmark, Silesia), which, especially on the Polish frontier opposite Berlin, had been extended to form an impregnable system of lines one behind the other. Berlin, however, which was only 150 kilometres from the Polish frontier, was very much exposed to air attacks, especially since the great expanse of Berlin (28 kilometres north to south and 45 kilometres east to west) rendered possible the bombing of the city from a very great height (8000 to 9000 metres) without any definite targets being attacked, but with the certainty that the bombs would fall somewhere in the city area.



That indicates the danger posed to Germany by Poland as a result of that country's joining Britain and France in an alliance threatening Germany. That was the reason why it needed to be knocked out quickly by a preventive strike, if it did not change its attitude and revert to its previous position of friendliness toward Germany.

As regards the Danzig issue itself, Hitler gave a logical and rational explanation of the justification for the reunification of that city with Germany. As he said, he had been prepared to be flexible on border issues such as that of South Tyrol, but there was a limit to his flexibility, and Danzig was at that limit:

Reverting to the Danzig question the Führer explained that it was impossible for him to yield here. He had agreed with Italy that the Germans should be withdrawn from the South Tyrol,[5] but for this very reason he was now obliged to avoid at all costs anything which might give the impression that the withdrawal of the Germans from the South Tyrol constituted a precedent which could be applied in other territories. Besides, his justification to the German people for the withdrawal of these Germans from Italy was the general trend of German policy towards the East and North-East. The East and North-East, i.e., the countries on the Baltic Sea, had been Germany's undisputed sphere of influence from time immemorial, just as the Mediterranean was Italy's peculiar sphere. For economic reasons, too, Germany needed the grain and timber producing lands of these Eastern regions. In the case of Danzig, it was not purely material interests which were at stake, although this city was the greatest Baltic port. The turnover in tonnage amounted to 40 per cent of Hamburg's. Danzig, the Nuremberg of the North, was an ancient German city, which aroused sentimental feelings in every German, and it was precisely this psychological element which also forced the Führer to take popular feeling into account. In order to make the situation more comprehensible to the Italian mind, Count Ciano should try to imagine Trieste in Yugoslav hands and a strong Italian minority on Yugoslav soil being treated with brutal force. It could hardly be assumed that Italy would tolerate that for long.


Hitler's comparison of Danzig with Trieste was particularly apposite. Today Trieste is part of Italian sovereign terriotry and has an ethnic Italian population, as it has had since medieval times, but is almost entirely surrounded by Slovenia, being connected to the main part of Italy by only a thin strip of territory along the coast. Furthermore, Slovenia has no large port of its own, having only a very narrow srtip of coastline, and its overseas trade has to pass through the Italian port of Trieste.

Nevertheless, the fact of Trieste's being part of Italy rather than of Slovenia does not create any problems for the latter country; its imports and exports flow through the port of Trieste without any hindrance, due to the good relations between the two countries. The current relationship between Slovenia and Trieste provide a model for what could have been achieved with Danzig in the 1920s and 1930s, if only Poland had been less intransigent and the Allies less obsessed with punishing Germany.

It is noteworthy that in April 1945, Tito tried to seize Trieste, on the pretext that it was necessary as a port for northern Yugoslavia. However, New Zealand forces in the area were prepared to fight the Communist Partisans, and thereby saved the city for Italy.

Further on the Danzig issue:

The Führer replied that no time should be lost in solving the Polish problem. The further autumn advanced, the more difficult military operations in Eastern Europe would become. Because of the weather conditions, very little use could be made of the Luftwaffe in these territories from the middle of September, while it would also be impossible to employ motorized forces owing to the state of the roads, which rapidly became a morass after the rains which start in the autumn. From September to May, Poland was one vast swamp and completely unsuitable for any military operations. Thus Poland could simply occupy Danzig in October—and she probably intended to do so—without Germany being able to do anything at all to prevent it; for there was naturally no question of bombing and destroying Danzig.

Count Ciano asked by what date the Führer thought the Danzig question would have to be settled. The Führer replied that this settlement would have to be made one way or the other by the end of August. In reply to Ciano's question as to what solution the Führer envisaged, the latter said that Poland must give up Danzig politically, but that at the same time her economic interests would naturally be safeguarded, and that, furthermore, she must also by her general attitude contribute towards removing the tension. He doubted whether Poland would be prepared to do this, for hitherto she had rejected Germany's proposals. The Führer had personally made these proposals to Beck on the occasion of the latter's visit to Obersalzberg.[12] They had been extremely favourable to Poland. In exchange for the political return of Danzig to Germany, with full preservation of Polish economic interests, and the establishment of a link between East Prussia and the Reich, Germany had promised a frontier guarantee, a twenty-five-year pact of friendship, and that Poland should have a share in influence on Slovakia. At the time Beck had taken cognizance of the proposal with the remark that he would study it. The brusque rejection of this had come only as a consequence of English intervention. What Poland's other objectives were could be seen quite clearly from the press. The whole of East Prussia was to be taken, it was intended to advance as far as Berlin, etc. It was unbearable for a Great Power to have to tolerate perpetually such a hostile neighbour only 150 kilometres from her capital. The Führer was therefore determined to utilize the opportunity provided by the next act of political provocation—be it in the form of an ultimatum, brutal maltreatment of Germans in Poland, an attempt to starve Danzig out, an entry of Polish troops into Danzig territory, or anything of that kind—to attack Poland within forty-eight hours and solve the problem in that way. This would constitute a considerable strengthening of the Axis, just as the liquidation of Yugoslavia by Italy would constitute a considerable increase in Axis power.


The above passage reveals the time constraints under which Hitler was operating, and also the reasons why Hitler had specified back in April that the contingency plan for an invasion of of Poland should not be implemented before 1 September.

After Poland Britain in an anti-German coalition at the end of March 1939, Hitler was prepared to give it until the end of August to change its intransigent attitude and show preparedness to negotiate on the compromise proposals put forward by Germany. If however it continued its intransigence beyond the end of August, the strategic situation of Germany would worsen, since by October the autumn weather would hamper any German military operations, leaving the way free for Poland to occupy Danzig, as was clearly its intention. Polish expansionist aggressiveness might well extend to an invasion of East Prussia and an attack toward Berlin, only 150 miles from the Polish border.

So the the situation imposed on Germany by the British and French intervention in the Danzig issue was the following:

1. If Poland changed its intransigent attitude over Danzig and negotiated on the basis of the German proposals, the issue could be resolved without hostile action.

2. If Poland had not changed its attitude by the end of summer, that would show that it was playing for time until it could occupy Danzig and perhaps also East Prussia at a time when Germany would be unable to use its full force to prevent it. In that situation, Germany would need to launch a preventive strike against Poland in early September, the last possible window of opportunity at the very end of the campaigning season, when weather conditions would allow full use of German armour and air power.

Hitler further elucidated that objective strategic situation at the meeting on the following day, 13 August:

Besides, after reflection, he had come in principle to the same conclusion as that which he had stated in yesterday's conversation, namely that there was a risk of drifting too far into the autumn, so that Poland would find the way open for the achievement of her comparatively limited objectives. She could, by slow blackmail, reduce Danzig to a state of submission, and for such action the terms of the Treaty were extremely favourable for Poland. Danzig could be slowly strangled and exposed to economic ruin, even famine. Danzig could be occupied by Poland without difficulty from the second half of September and especially from the beginning of October onwards. The reconquest of the Corridor and Danzig by Germany would follow, but major military operations would no longer be possible at that time of the year. This would reduce Danzig to ruins. It would no longer be possible for Germany to employ the heavy motorized forces which were required for a deep thrust into Poland.

In the event of a hard winter it might indeed be possible to carry out certain military operations, but the fact that both the advanced landing grounds and the normal airfields would become fogbound and waterlogged rendered any commitment of the Luftwaffe impossible. If German airfields were used, flights would be greatly lengthened, the petrol consumption increased and bomb loads considerably reduced. It was therefore of decisive importance, firstly, that within the shortest possible time Poland should make her intentions plain, and secondly, that no further acts of provocation of any sort should be tolerated by Germany. If acts of provocation were passed over now they would have to be tolerated all the more in October, when the tanks and the Luftwaffe could no longer be used. This weakness of Germany, conditioned by the seasons, was very well known to the Polish General Staff and that was why Poland was playing for time. The Führer had thus arrived at two conclusions:

1. If there were any fresh act of provocation, he would take swift action.

2. If Poland did not make her political attitude clear and unmistakable, such a statement of attitude would have to be brought about.



The above passage shows that Hitler's decision to launch a preventive strike against Poland was not absolute, but was contingent upon Poland's actions. If Poland abandoned its intransigent attitude, then there would be no need for the preventive strike to be launched.

Hitler's statements also reveal his strategic thinking in regard to Britain and France:

If the Western democracies were already firmly resolved to take action against the Axis, they would in no circumstances wait three or four years to put their plan into effect, attacking only after the Axis Powers had finished making their necessary preparations, but would bring about the conflict earlier. But if they had not yet come to a definite decision—as he, the Führer, was inclined to believe, in view of the state of the Western countries' armaments---the best means of restraining them from taking action was to move swiftly against Poland.


He knew that Britain and France would like to take action against Germany, at the latest in three or four years time, in order to prevent Germany's growing so strong as to be able to challenge their domination of the World. However, if Poland could be knocked out quickly, that would deter them from taking such action.

Hitler also expressed his aims in regard to Poland:

The Führer said that Poland would have to be suppressed to such an extent that she would in no circumstances be capable of fighting for ten years. In this event it would be possible to settle accounts with the West.


The above statement shows that Hitlker's aim was not to destroy Poland as an entity, or to conquer its territory, but to eliminate its military power which could threaten the security of Germany if POland were aligned with powers hostile to Germany, as was presently quite clearly the case.

By "settling accounts with the West", Hitler no doubt meant deterring Britain and France from any action against Germany, or being able to fight them successfully if they did insist on taking such action. Both options, deterring Britian and France or fighting them to a standstill, would be improved by the prior elimination of Polish military power.

In summary, the record of Hitler's conversations with Ciano do not reveal an intention to start a war of wanton aggression for the purpose of destroying nations and conquering territory. When seen in the context of the policy that Hitler had pursued toward Poland since he took control of German foreign policy in 1933, those conversations show Hitler reacting to a situation imposed upon him by Britain and France with the connivance of Poland, his reaction taking the form of adopting a policy of giving Poland until the end of August to change its intransigent attitude, and if it did not do so, launching a preventive strike to knock it out quickly, thereby breaking the encirclement of Germany and presenting Britain and France with a fait accompli which might deter them from making war. If the elimination of Poland did not succeed in deterring Britain and France, it would at least mean that Germany would only have to fight on one front when those countries imposed war on it.


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