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Joachim von Ribbentrop

“I have a question . . . which I would like very much to clear up.”

Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop, 1893–1946.  German Foreign Minister, 1938–1945.  Autograph Letter Signed, J v Ribbentrop, one page, 8” x 11”, [no place, no date].

A confidant of Adolf Hitler, Ribbentrop served as Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister from 1938 to the end of World War II.  Ribbentrop, who was fluent in English, writes here to an unnamed recipient to ask for a further meeting.  In full: “Referring to our yesterdays [sic] conversation could I have a word with you this morning?  I have a question in this connection, which I would like very much to clear up.”

It is impossible to know, of course, since this letter is undated, but it could relate to the time of Ribbentrop’s imprisonment at Nuremburg during the War Crimes Trials following World War II. 

Ribbentrop was appointed Germany’s ambassador to Great Britain in 1936 and subsequently became Foreign Minister in 1938.  He was prominent in negotiating two major agreements in 1939:  the Pact of Steel, Germany’s alliance with fascist Italy, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany.  He had an active role in planning the German invasions of Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. 

Ribbentrop was actively involved in the extermination of some six million Jews.  Beginning in 1942, he ordered German diplomats in the Axis countries to speed the process of deporting Jews to concentration camps in the East, where they would be exterminated—Germany’s “final solution” to “the Jewish question” planned at the 1941 Wannsee Conference outside of Berlin.  The war crimes tribunal also found Ribbentrop directly responsible for atrocities in Denmark and France, because the top officials in those countries reported directly to him.

Although he argued at Nuremberg that Hitler had been in control and had deceived him by claiming that he wanted peace, the tribunal did not believe that Ribbentrop could have “remained unaware of the aggressive nature of Hitler’s actions.”  He was convicted on all four counts:  participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace; planning, initiating, and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace; war crimes; and crimes against humanity.

Throughout it all, Ribbentrop remained loyal to Hitler.  “Even with all I know,” he said, “if in this cell Hitler should come to me and say ‘Do this!’, I would still do it.”  He was the first of the 10 executed Nazi defendants to be hanged. 

This letter is in fine condition.  Ribbentrop has written and signed it in pencil.  The letter has two horizontal folds, one of which touches two letters of the text but does not touch Ribbentrop’s signature. The top edge is a bit uneven but not significantly so, and there are scattered handling marks, particularly at the bottom.  There is a darker pencil line beneath part of Ribbentrop’s signature, likely added later, which affects the “p” in the last name and Ribbentrop’s own typical shorter line beneath the end of the signature.  

We reject Nazism and all that it represented.  We nevertheless offer this item because of its historical significance and because Nazism, although despised, played a large role in the history of the 20th Century.




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