Richard Wilkinson challenges the consensus of contempt for the Nazis' leading diplomat.

Nuremberg Trials defendants photographed in the dock, 22 November 1945. Joachim von Ribbentrop seated front row, second from left.

Who got the biggest laugh at the Nuremberg Trial? The answer is, von Ribbentrop. It happened when he was denying that he had bullied President Hácha of Czechoslovakia. 'What further pressure could you put on the head of a country except to threaten him that your army would march in and your airforce would bomb his capital?' demanded Sir David Maxwell-Fife. 'War, for instance', Ribbentrop replied and the court erupted. The other prisoners shook their heads in embarrassed disbelief while one asked his neighbour 'How could such a man be Foreign Minister of the Reich?'

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