4 Dec. 45

should be abandoned, in order not to prejudice the surprise of the attack. On the 12th and 13th of August Hitler and Ribbentrop had a conference with Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister.

It was a conference to which the Tribunal will have to have regard from several points of view. I summarize now only one aspect of the matter: At the beginning of the conversation Hitler emphasized the strength of the German position, of Germany's Western and Eastern Fortifications, and of the strategic and other advantages they held in comparison with those of England, France, and Poland. Now I quote from the captured document itself. Hitler said this:

"Since the Poles through their whole attitude had made it clear that, in any case, in the event of a conflict, they would stand on the side of the enemies of Germany and Italy, a quick liquidation at the present moment could only be of advantage for the unavoidable conflict with the Western Democracies. If a hostile Poland remained on Germany's eastern frontier, not only would the 11 East Prussian divisions be tied down, but also further contingents would be kept in Pomerania and Silesia. This would not be necessary in the event of a previous liquidation."
Then this:

"Generally speaking, the best thing to happen would be to liquidate the false neutrals one after the other. This process could be carried out more easily if on every occasion one partner of the Axis covered the other while it was dealing with an uncertain neutral. Italy might well regard Yugoslavia as a neutral of that kind." Ciano was for postponing the operation. Italy was not ready. She believed that a conflict with Poland would develop into a general European war. Mussolini was convinced that conflict with the Western Democracies was inevitable, but he was making plans for a period 2 or 3 years ahead. But the Führer said that the Danzig question must be disposed of, one way or the other, by the end of August. I quote: "He had, therefore, decided to use the occasion of the next political provocation which has the form of an ultimatum. . . ."
On the 22d of August Hitler called his Supreme Commanders together and gave the order for the attack. In the course of what he said he made it clear that the decision to attack had, in fact, been made not later than the previous spring. He would give a spurious cause for starting the war. And at that time the attack was timed to take place in the early hours of the 26th of August. On the day before, on the 25th of August, the British Government, in the hope that Hitler might still be reluctant to plunge the world into war,