Address by Joachim von Ribbentrop to diplomatic and press representatives in Berlin on April 10, 1940, explaining the German invasion of Norway
Gentlemen of the Diplomatic Missions, and Gentlemen of the Foreign and Domestic Press:
I have invited you here today in order to acquaint you directly with the contents of a series of political documents, which, in the opinion of the German Government, are of the utmost importance to the people of all countries and particularly to the Governments of neutral states.
In the name of the German Government, I have the following remarks to make concerning these documents:
On September 3, the rulers of Britain and France declared war on the German Reich. There were no rational grounds of any kind for their action. The German people and their Fuehrer have since January, 1933, constantly reaffirmed their intention and desire to live in peace and friendship with the British and French peoples. The German people, however, have accepted with solemn determination the war that has been thrust upon them. The scheme of the Anglo-French rulers to break up the German Reich, to take away the rights of the German people and to ruin them economically will be parried by the united forces of the German nation and thus frustrated.
Since they knew that a direct attack on the Siegfried Line would be hopelessly futile and since their Polish ally, who had been egged on against Germany, had failed, the British and French Governments began a desperate search for new means of coming to grips with Germany.
Thus, the extension of the theater of war became the principal basis of war policy in the minds of the political and military leaders of the Western Powers. Since the beginning of the year, therefore, Britain and France have attempted by all the means in their power to bring about a shift in the war front by involving neutral states. The smaller European countries appeared, to the British rulers, the most suitable victims of this plan. Their people were expected to become first line reinforcements, thus obviating, according to the old British tradition, the shedding of British blood. For propaganda purposes in support of this war extension policy, British and French politicians commenced a systematic campaign against the principle of neutrality in itself and against every endeavor of the neutral states to defend their neutrality and to keep themselves out of the war.
On January 21, Mr. Churchill opened this campaign with a notorious speech against neutrality and a challenge to the neutrals to join Britain and France in the war against Germany. Up to now, no speech of a British or French politician has failed to include a demand that the neutrals take part in this war. Here are a few examples:
On January 31, Mr. Chamberlain sharply rebuked the neutral states for their “uninterested indifference.” On February 24, Mr. Chamberlain called the flagrant attack on the German vessel, Altmark, in Norwegian territorial waters only a “technical breach of neutrality.” On February 27, Mr. Churchill asserted that he had heard enough talk about the rights of neutrals. On March 20, Sir Oliver Stanley, the British War Minister, said that the British were willing and apt students of the doctrine maintaining the disregard of the rights of neutrals as advantageous. On March 30, Mr. Churchill announced that it not be fair if the Western Powers held fast to legal agreements in a life and death struggle. On April 4, Lord de la Warr stated that neither Germany nor the neutrals could expect Britain to handicap herself by observing the letter of the Law. On April 6, the British Minister of Labor declared that neither Germany nor the neutrals could count on the Western Powers keeping strictly within the provisions of International Law. On April 10, 1940, Lord Halifax warned the neutrals not to wait too long before they called for help because “waiting was dangerous for them.” M. Reynaud recommended, on April 11, that the neutrals “reconsider their situation.”
Thus far the utterances of the British and French politicians represented only a veiled challenge or a veiled threat to the neutrals. However, on April 12, Mr. Duff Cooper let the mask fall all the way off when he declared with brutal candor that, after having made clear to the neutrals that their own freedom and independence were at stake, the British would now openly tell them what part each had to play in the campaign to destroy Germany. If one state or another hesitated, the British would immediately proceed to overcome such hesitation.
Britain and France saw in the Russo-Finnish conflict the first opportunity of gaining their objective, an extension of the war front. On March 12, M. Daladier and, on March 19, Mr. Chamberlain affirmed publicly that they were determined to intervene in the conflict with military power, making use of the territory of the Northern States as an operation base. However, their action depended on the consent of the Scandinavian States to permit the passage of their troops. These public declarations by the Heads of the Governments of Britain and France were naked frauds. The German Government is acquainted with the report of the Finnish Minister in Paris to his Government of March 12. In this report the Minister states that M. Daladier and Mr. Churchill had given him definite assurance that immediately upon receiving a call from Finland, the British and French troops, who were already standing by, would set out from their harbors to make a landing in Norway. The passage of the troops would be conveyed to Norway and Sweden in a note, without previous request for the permission of the Governments of the two countries. Diplomatic relations between Britain and France and the Soviet Union were to be broken off immediately. Mr. Churchill had already flown to Paris on March 11, the report reveals, expressly to make a last-minute attempt to obstruct the conclusion of peace between Russia and Finland.
Further convincing proof of the extent to which Britain and France had already prepared for their intervention in the North is afforded by a great number of documents which fell into the hands of German troops upon their entry into Norway. A small number of these documents have been selected for publication today. The documents found in Narvik afford a comprehensive insight into the activity of the British Secret Service in Norway which had the task of carrying out the reconnaissance work and preparations for the landing of the British and French expeditionary force and the occupation of Norway. The British spies operated along the entire Norwegian coast and also in Oslo and other cities in the interior of the country. It is evident that they had prepared every detail of the landing and disposition of troops in a systematic way, through the espionage organization of the Secret Service. Furthermore, as I shall outline in detail later, the Norwegian Government then in power had long been secretly in accord with the British.
The intentions of the British and French governments in planning the dispatch of their expeditionary force went far beyond assistance for Finland against Russia. This is shown by a report of February 8 by the French Naval Attaché in Oslo. The report states for the benefit of the local Norwegian authorities, that all the intelligence work necessary for the landing would be carried out under the pretext of preparing transports to Finland.
All these British preparations for the extension of the war against Germany in the North were made with complete secrecy. However, Mr. Churchill revealed their true intentions and aims through a series of indiscreet utterances, which came to the knowledge of the German Government. For this reason a report of the Norwegian Minister in London to his Government concerning a Press Conference which Mr. Churchill held on February 2 in London for the Press Attachés of the neutral countries is among the documents revealed today.
In the report of this conference it is stated that (1) Mr. Churchill raged against Norway and Sweden because the Swedish ore was still permitted to reach Germany, (2) he openly acknowledged that his principal objective was to involve the Scandinavian States in the war, (3) that the best way of achieving this aim was to embroil the Scandinavian States on the side of Finland.
In connection with this, I wish to make the following declaration, based on the extensive material previously in the possession of the German Government, that has now been supplemented by other equally important discoveries:
(1) It is perfectly plain from all the communications and documents which have come to the knowledge of the German Government that the Swedish Government interpreted its Declaration of Neutrality very seriously indeed; it neither committed nor encouraged any act incompatible with that declaration.
(2) The German Government is necessarily of the opinion, and will now offer proof by the publication of the documents involved, that the former Norwegian Government was not only prepared to tolerate action designed to extend the war front, but also was ready, if necessary, to participate in or support such action. From the evidence, especially from the papers recently found by our troops in Norway, it appears beyond all doubt not only that British espionage was conducted with the knowledge of local and central authorities, but also that many Norwegian leaders, particularly the naval heads, aided and abetted these British activities to the greatest extent possible.
Proof that the Norwegian Government had already contemplated entering the war on the side of Britain and France in found in the document reporting a Government conference held on March 2, by the former Norwegian Prime Minister, Nygaarsvold.
Minister Koht declared cynically that if Britain demanded Norway’s support against Russia, an action which would in reality be only for the purpose of extending the war front, Norwat would be obliged to say “No”–but in such a way that she could easily substitute a “Yes” for the “No.” Herr Koht then declared that, if Norway could not avoid becoming involved in the conflict, the Norwegian Government should immediately adopt an attitude that would prevent their country from entering the war “on the wrong side.”
When, because of the conclusion of peace in Finland, the Western Powers momentarily lost their best opportunity for an intervention in the North, they immediately attempted to devise new ways and means of achieving their aim to extend the war area.
The continued efforts made by Britain and France to stir up trouble in Southeastern Europe, the persistent attempts by the British Secret Service to sabotage various parts of the Balkans, the mobilization of the army under General Weygand, etc., may serve as examples.
To give their intentions a moral cloak, those who hold the reins in Britain and France made even more obvious attempts–after the conclusion of peace between Russia and Finland which came so inopportunely for the Allies–to allege German violations of Norwegian territorial waters.
Among the many newspaper articles written to order for this purpose, the reports of the Paris Temps of March 27 (at a time when the preparations of the Western Powers for the occupation of Norway were already almost concluded) is characteristic. The paper in question speaks of a “systematic violation” of territorial waters by Germany, and asserts that the Allies could regard themselves justified in no longer respecting the neutrality of these waters.
The same tendency is revealed in a Havas dispatch of the same date which states that passivity falsifies the real meaning of neutrality and that the action of the Allies was confined to the objective of restoring the disturbed equilibrium. What this “restoration of the equilibrium” meant was made clear to the German Government by a conversation between French Premier Reynaud and a foreign diplomat in Paris a few days later (March 30).
The unguarded declaration of the French Premier contains the assertion that the danger zones in the West and especially in the South no longer existed, because decisive and important actions in Northern Europe were to be carried out by the Allies in the course of the next few days.
It therefore seemed reasonable to the German Government to complete immediately the measures which had already been taken and to attain a state of greater preparedness for any emergency, so that it would be possible to intervene at any moment. The realization of the imminent danger was strengthened when on April 8 the Government of the Reich learned that the British and French Governments intended to declare on that date that the neutrality of the Scandinavian waters no longer existed and to begin certain operations forthwith.
The Führer consequently ordered the German fleet to sail so that it would be able to intervene immediately of the plan which had been communicated to the German Government should be put into operation.
The mining of Norwegian territorial waters by Great Britain, announced for April 8, was undertaken on the preceding day by the British Government, having as its alleged object the barring of Norwegian territorial waters to German shipping.
Actually, however, the mines which encircled the Norwegian harbors were intended to insure the safety of the British Expeditionary Force, which at the time was already in the North Sea. On April 8 the British troops who were intended to occupy Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik had already embarked and left the harbors. At that moment the British Admiralty received intelligence that German Naval forces had appeared in the North Sea. The Admiralty, connecting the appearance of the German fleet with the intended landing, immediately sent out messages to recall the transport ships, and made every effort to contact the German fleet in battle. It was, however, impossible to recall all the transport ships, and several were captured and destroyed by German bombers.
The German counteraction on the morning of April 9 took place at exactly the right moment to prevent or frustrate Franco-British landing operations on the Norwegian coast.
When the responsible statesmen in England and France recognized that their plans for the occupation of Scandinavian territory had been shattered, Messrs. Chamberlain, Churchill, Halifax, and Reynaud came before the public with their usual dramatic airs and levied the most serious accusations at Germany, accompanied by categorical assurances that they themselves never intended any action against the sovereign territory of Scandinavia except mine-laying.
The British Prime Minister made the following statement on the subject in the House of Commons:
“It is asserted by the German Government that their invasion of Norway was a reprisal for the action of the Allies in Norwegian territorial waters. This statement will, of course, deceive no one. At no time did the Allies contemplate any occupation of any Scandinavian territory so long as it was not attacked by Germany. Any allegations by Germany to the contrary are pure invention, and have no foundation in fact.”
In the name of the German Government and above all in the name of truth and justice, Gentlemen, I now wish to lay before you the documents which prove that the assurances of the masters of Britain and France are only falsehoods and misrepresentations.
Recent communiqués of our adversaries informed you, Gentlemen, of the “great victories” gained by the Allies in the regions of Hamar and Elverum. Actual fighting has taken place in this area, in which British troops participated. In the course of these engagements, the German troops succeeded in breaking through all enemy positions. They drove back the opposing British and Norwegian units and eventually routed them.
In clashes with the British in the Lillehammer region, German troops captured the British Brigade Staff in command of that sector, as well as part of the 8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters belonging to the 148th British Infantry Brigade. Among innumerable other documents, the complete plan of operations for the British occupation of Norway was found in the possession of the Brigade Staff and on prisoners taken in the successful fighting to the north of Trondheim. At the same time, the various orders of the Brigade and of the subordinate troop formations based upon the plan were also secured. These military orders, the first section of which is made public to the world today, prove that the British landing in Norway had long been prepared in every detail and that the order to land had been given to the first formation of the Expeditionary Corps on April 6 and 7.
This first section includes, for example, the plan of operation of the 8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, dated April 7, which proves that the Battalion was then already making its way to Stavanger on the British cruiser Glasgow. It is further proved that other troops of the same brigade had been instructed to seize the aerodrome at Sola immediately upon landing.
When it became known on April 8 that the German fleet has put to sea, the Battalion was called back and disembarked.
Gentlemen, I do not intend to explain to you in detail the contents of these documents. They speak for themselves. You will find them supplemented by a number of diaries belonging to British officers and men as well as by subsequent statements of British prisoners.
The Government of the German Reich will in a series of publications furnish proof that:
(1) Britain and France had prepared the occupation of Norway for a long time.
(2) The Norwegian Government was cognizant of this fact.
(3) In contrast to Sweden, the Norwegian Government had acquiesced to this fact and was even prepared, as afterwards actually happened, to participate in the war on the side of Britain and France.
(4) The British attempt was frustrated within a few hours by Germany’s intervention.
(5) The declarations on the subject since made by British Government officials are unqualified falsehoods.