In other words, the sensational document, which was the primary instrument used in securing the conviction and execution of a number of Germany’s top leaders, has never been verified, and there is no reason to assume that it is authentic.
After Germany’s defeat in WWII, the Nuremberg and later trials were organized primarily for political purposes rather than to dispense impartial justice. Wears War brings to you each week a quote from the many fine men and women who were openly appalled by the trials. All of these people were highly respected and prominent in their field, at least until they spoke out against the trials.
U.S. historian David L. Hoggan, Ph.D.:
A mysterious event which took place on the same day as the German-Polish minority pact has furnished ideal subject matter for professional propagandists. Hitler addressed a conference attended by some of his advisers, but without the majority of his Cabinet. The narrow circle included Defense Minister Werner von Blomberg, Army Commander Werner von Fritsch, Navy Commander Erich Raeder, Air Force Commander Hermann Goering, and Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath. Colonel Hossbach, an officer of the German General Staff assigned by the General Staff for liaison work with Hitler, was also present. This man was in no sense Hitler’s personal adjutant, although this idea has persisted in many accounts.
The so-called Hossbach version of the conference, which is supposed to have become one of the most celebrated documents of all time, was written several days after the event, and it could carry no weight in a normal court of law, even if an actual copy of this memorandum was available. Hossbach had been an opponent of Hitler and his system since 1934, and he was not adverse to the employment of illegal and revolutionary means in eliminating Hitler. He was an ardent admirer of General Ludwig Beck, the German Chief of Staff, whose life he had once helped to save on the occasion of a cavalry accident. Beck was a determined foe of Hitler, and he was engaged in organizing opposition against the German Chancellor. Hossbach was naturally on the alert to provide Beck with every possible kind of propaganda material. Hitler was popular in Germany, and only extreme methods might be effective in opposing him.
It would be the duty of every historian to treat the so-called Hossbach memorandum with reserve, even if it could be shown that the version introduced at Nuremberg was an authentic copy of the memorandum which Hossbach began to write on November 10, 1937 (he failed to recall later when he completed his effort). The fact is, however, that no copies of this original version have been located since World War II. The version introduced by the American Prosecution at Nuremberg, the only one extant, was said to be a copy made from the original version in late 1943 or early 1944, but Hossbach declared in a notarized affidavit on June 18, 1946, that he could not remember whether or not the Nuremberg copy corresponded to the original which he had made nearly nine years earlier. In other words, the sensational document, which was the primary instrument used in securing the conviction and execution of a number of Germany’s top leaders, has never been verified, and there is no reason to assume that it is authentic. Raeder explained that Hitler’s views, as expressed on November 5, 1937, offered no basis to conclude that any change in German foreign policy was about to take place, but the judges at Nuremberg, with the dubious help of an unconfirmed record, decided that Hitler had revealed unmistakably his unalterable intention to wage a war of criminal aggression.
Fritsch and Blomberg were dead when this conference was investigated after World War II, but Neurath and Goering agreed with Raeder about the essential nature of Hitler’s remarks. Hitler had discussed German aspirations in Central Europe and the danger of war, but this was certainly a very different thing than announcing an intention to pursue a reckless foreign policy or to seek a war. Even the alleged Hossbach memorandum introduced at Nuremberg, as A.J.P. Taylor has pointed out, does not anticipate any of the actual events which followed in Europe during 1938 and 1939. It does contain some offensive and belligerent ideas, but it outlines no specific actions, and it establishes no timetables. Hence, error had been added to error. It was false to assume that the document was authentic in the first place, and it was incorrect to assume that even the fraudulent document contained any damaging evidence against Hitler and the other German leaders. Unfortunately, most of the later historians in Germany and elsewhere have blindly followed the Nuremberg judgment and have arrived at the mistaken conclusion that Hitler’s conference of November 5, 1937, was relevant to the effort of determining the responsibility for World War II.
Source: Hoggan, David L., The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed, Costa Mesa, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1989, pp. 82-83.