The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Second Day: Thursday, 24rd January, 1946
(Part 1 of 7)

[Page 118]



CAPTAIN PRICEMAN: May it please your Honour, the defendant Streicher and the defendant Kaltenbrunner are absent this morning on account of illness.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: May it please the Tribunal, before the Tribunal adjourned, I was dealing with the share of the defendant Neurath in the aggression against Austria. Before I proceed with the next stage, I should like the Tribunal, if it will be so kind, to look at the original exhibit from which I will read, Document 3287-PS, and I would like to state it is Exhibit GB 128, which is the letter from this defendant to Sir Neville Henderson, who was then the British Ambassador. The only point on which I would be grateful, is if the Tribunal would note Page 92 of the document book. When I say original, I mean a certified copy certified by the British Foreign Office, but the Tribunal will see that the heading is from the President of the Secret Cabinet Council. That is the point that the Tribunal will remember. The question was raised as to the existence or activity of that body, and the letterhead is from the defendant in that capacity.

The next stage in the aggression is that at the time of the occupation of Austria, this defendant gave the assurance to M. Mastny, the Ambassador of Czechoslovakia to Berlin, regarding the continued independence of Czechoslovakia. On Page 123 of Document TC 27, which I have already put in as Exhibit GB 21, is a letter to Lord Halifax, who was then Foreign Secretary; and if I may read the second paragraph just to remind the Tribunal of the circumstances in which it was written M. Masaryk says:

"I have in consequence been instructed by my Government to bring to the official knowledge of His Majesty's Government the following facts: Yesterday evening (11 March) Field-Marshal Goering made two separate, statements to M. Mastny, the Czechoslovak Minister in Berlin, assuring him that the developments in Austria will in no way have any detrimental influence on the relations between the German Reich and Czechoslovakia, and emphasising the continued earnest endeavour on the part of Germany to improve those mutual relations."
And then there are the particulars of the way in which it was put to defendant Goering, which have been brought to the Tribunal's attention, and I shall not repeat them. The 6th paragraph begins: "M. Mastny was in a position to give him definite and binding assurances on this subject" - that is, to the defendant Goering, on the Czech mobilisation - and then it continues:
"and today spoke with Baron von Neurath, who, among other things, assured him on behalf of Herr Hitler that Germany still considers herself bound by the German- Czechoslovak Arbitration Convention, concluded at Locarno in October 1925."
In view of the fact that the defendant von Neurath had been present at the meeting on 5 November, four months previously, he had heard Hitler's views on Czechoslovakia, yet it was only six months before the Munich Agreement was disregarded forthwith. That paragraph is, in my opinion, an excellent example of the technique of which this defendant was the first professor.

I now come to the aggression against Czechoslovakia. On 28th May 1938,

[Page 119]

Hitler held a conference of important leaders, including Beck, von Brauchitsch, Raeder, Keitel, Goering and Ribbentrop, at which Hitler affirmed that preparations should be made for military action against Czechoslovakia by October, and it is believed though not - I say frankly - confirmed that the defendant von Neurath attended. The reference of that meeting is in the transcript. (Part 2, p. 6).

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, is there any evidence?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: No. Your Lordship will remember the documents, a long series of them, and it does not state who was present? therefore, I express that and put it with reserve.

On 4 September 1938, the Government of which von Neurath was a member, enacted a new Secret Reich Defence Law which denied various official responsibilities, in clear anticipation of war. This law provided, as did the previous Secret Reich Defence Law, for a Reich Defence Council as a supreme policy board for war preparations. If the Tribunal will remember, I have already referred them to Document 2194- PS, Exhibit USA 36, showing these facts. Then there came the Munich Agreement of 30 September 1938, but in spite of that, on 15 March 1939, German troops marched into Czechoslovakia? and the Proclamation to the German people and the Order to the Wehrmacht is Document TC 50, Exhibit GB 7, which the Tribunal will find at Page 124, which has already been referred to, and I shall not read it again.

On 16 March 1939, the German Government, of which von Neurath was still a member, promulgated the "Decree of the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor on the Establishment of the Protectorate 'Bohemia and Moravia'." That date is 16 March. It is on Page 126 of the document book, Document TC 51, Exhibit GB 8.

If I may leave that for the moment, I will come back to it in dealing with the setting up of the Protectorate. In a moment I will read Article 5; but taking the events in the order of time, in the following week the defendant von Ribbentrop signed a Treaty with Slovakia, which is on Page 129, and the Tribunal may remember Article 2 of that Treaty, which is:

"For the purpose of making effective the protection undertaken by the German Reich, the German Armed Forces shall have the right at all times to construct military installations and to keep them garrisoned in the strength they deem necessary, in an area delimited on its Western side by the frontiers of the State of Slovakia, and on its Eastern side by a line formed by the Eastern rims of the Lower Carpathians, the White Carpathians, and the Javornik Mountains.

The Government of Slovakia will take the necessary steps to ensure that the land required for these installations is handed over to the German Armed Forces. Furthermore, the Government of Slovakia will agree to grant exemption from custom duties for imports from the Reich for the maintenance of the German troops and the supply of military installations."

The Tribunal will appreciate that the ultimate objective of Hitler's policies, disclosed at the meeting at which this defendant was present on 5 November, 1937, was the resumption of the "Drang nach Osten." It was obvious from the terms of this Treaty, as it had been explicit in Hitler's statement.

Then we come to the pith of this criminality. By accepting and occupying the position of Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, the defendant von Neurath personally adhered to the aggression against Czechoslovakia and the world. Further, he actively participated in the conspiracy of world aggression, and he assumed a position of leadership in the execution of policies involving violation of the laws of war, and the commission of Crimes Against Humanity.

[Page 120]

The Tribunal will appreciate that I am not going to trespass on the ground covered by my colleagues, and go into the crimes. I want to show quite clearly to the Tribunal the basis for these crimes, which was laid by the legal position which this defendant assumed.

The first point. The defendant von Neurath assumed the position of Protector under a sweeping grant of powers. The act creating the Protectorate provided, - if the Tribunal would be good enough to turn back to Page 126 in the document book and look at Article V of the Act, it reads as follows:

"1. As trustee of Reich interests, the Leader and Chancellor of the Reich shall nominate a 'Reich Protector in Bohemia and Moravia.' His seat of office will be Prague.

2. The Reich Protector, as representative of the Leader and Chancellor of the Reich, and as Commissioner of the Reich Government, is charged with the duty of seeing to the observance of the political principles laid down by the Leader and Chancellor of the Reich.

3. The members of the Government of the Protectorate shall be confirmed by the Reich Protector. The confirmation may be withdrawn.

4. The Reich Protector is entitled to inform himself of all measures taken by the Government of the Protectorate and to give advice. He can object to measures calculated to harm the Reich and, in case of danger, issue ordinances required for the common interest.

5. The promulgation of laws, ordinances and other legal announcements, and the execution of administrative measures and legal judgments, shall be annulled if the Reich Protector enters an objection."

At the very outset of the Protectorate, the defendant von Neurath's supreme authority - was implemented by a series of basic decrees, of which I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice. They established the alleged legal foundation for the policy and programme which resulted, all aimed towards the systematic destruction of the national integrity of the Czechs.
1. By granting the "racial Germans" in Czechoslovakia citizenship of the first class on 16 March 1939. I have already given the official reference to the Decree of the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor concerning the Protectorate, to which decree I have just referred; and then,

2. An Act concerning the representation, in the Reichstag of Greater Germany, of German nationals resident in the Protectorate: 13 April 1939.

3. An Order concerning the acquisition of German citizenship by former Czechoslovakian citizens of German origin, 20 April 1939.

Then there was a series of decrees that granted "racial Germans" in Czechoslovakia a preferred status at law and in the courts.
1. An Order concerning the Administration of Justice in Criminal Proceedings, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, 14 April 1939.

2. An order concerning the Administration of Justice in Civil Proceedings, 14 April 1939.

3. An Order concerning the Administration of Justice under Military Law, 8 May 1939.

Then the orders also granted to the Protector broad powers to change by decree the autonomous law of the Protectorate. That is contained in the Ordinance on Legislation in the Protectorate, 7 June 1939.

Finally, the Protector was authorised to act with the Reich Leader SS and the Chief of the German Police "to take if necessary, (police) measures which go beyond the limits usually valid for police measures."

May the Tribunal take judicial notice of this order, which we inserted in the document book at Page 131. It rather staggers the imagination to think what can be police measures even beyond the limits usually valid for police

[Page 121]

measures," when one has seen police measures in Germany between 1933 and 1939; but if such increase was possible, and presumably it was believed to be possible, then an increase was given by the defendant von Neurath, and used by him for coercion of the Czechs.

The declared basic policy of the Protectorate was concentrated upon the central objective of destroying the identity of the Czechs as a nation, and absorbing their territory into the Reich, and, if the Tribunal will be good enough to turn to Page 132, they will find evidence of this in Document 862-PS, Exhibit USA 313, which I think has been read to the Tribunal; still, the Tribunal might bear with me so that I might indicate the nature of that document to them.

This memorandum is signed by Lt. General of Infantry Friderici. It is headed "The Deputy General of the Armed Forces with the Reich Protector in Bohemia and Moravia." It is marked "Top Secret," dated 15 October 1940. That is practically a year before this defendant von Neurath went on leave, as he puts it, on 27 September 1941, and, it is called the "Basic Political Principles in the Protectorate." There are four copies. It also had gone to the defendant Keitel and the defendant Jodl, and it begins On 9 October of this year - " that is 1940:

"On 9 October of this year the Office of the Reich Protector held an official conference in which State Secretary Lt. General K. H. Frank" - that is not the defendant Frank, it is the other K. H. Frank - "spoke about the following:

Since the creation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, party agencies, industrial circles, as well as agencies of the central authorities of Berlin have had difficulty in the solution of the Czech problem.

After ample deliberation, the Reich Protector expressed his view about the various plans in a memorandum. In this, three ways of solution were indicated:

(a) German infiltration of Moravia and reduction of the Czech nationality to be residual Bohemia.

This solution is considered as unsatisfactory, because the Czech problem even in a diminished form, will continue to exist.

(b) Many arguments can be brought up against the most radical solution namely, the deportation of all Czechs. Therefore the memorandum comes to the conclusion that it cannot be carried within a reasonable space of time.

(c) Assimilation of the Czechs, i.e. absorption of about half of the Czech nationality by the Germans, insofar as it is of importance by being valuable from a radical or other standpoint. This will be effected amongst other things, by increasing the Arbeitseinsatz of the Czechs in the Reich territory, with the exception of the Sudeten German border district, in other words by dispersing the closed Czech nationality. The other half of the Czech nationality must be deprived of its power, eliminated and shipped out of the country by every means. This applies particularly to the racially Mongoloid part, and to the major part of the intellectual class. The latter can scarcely be converted ideologically, and would make themselves a burden by constantly claiming leadership over the other Czech classes, thus interfering with a rapid assimilation.

Elements which counteract the planned Germanization are to be handled roughly and should be eliminated.

The above development naturally presupposes an increased influx of Germans from the Reich territory into the Protectorate.

After a discussion, the Fuehrer has chosen Solution C (assimilation) as a directive for the solution of the Czech problem, and decided that, while

[Page 122]

keeping up the autonomy of the Protectorate on the surface, the Germanization will have to be carried out in a centralized manner by the Office of the Reich Protector, for years to come.

From the above no particular conclusions are drawn by the Armed Forces. This is the direction which has always been sponsored from here. In this connection, I refer to my memorandum which was sent to the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, dated 12 July 1939, entitled 'The Czech Problem'; and that is signed, as I said, by the Deputy Lt.-General of the Armed Forces.

That view of the Reich Protector was accepted, and formed a basis of his policy. The result was a programme of consolidating German control over Bohemia and Moravia by the systematic oppression of the Czechs through the abolition of civil liberties, and the systematic undermining of the native political, economic, and cultural structure by a regime of terror, which will be dealt with by my Soviet Union colleagues. They will show clearly, I submit, that the only protection given by this defendant was protection to the perpetrators of innumerable crimes.

I have already drawn attention of the Tribunal to the many honours and rewards which this defendant received as his reward, and it might well be said that Hitler showered more honours on von Neurath than on some of the leading Nazis who had been with the party since the very beginning. His appointment as President of the newly created Secret Cabinet Council in 1938 was in itself a new and singular distinction. On September 22 1940, Hitler awarded him the War Merit Cross 1st Class as Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia. That is in the Deutsches Nachrichten-Buero, 22 September 1940.

He was also awarded the Golden Badge of the Party, and was promoted, by Hitler personally, from the rank of Gruppenfuehrer to Obergruppenfuehrer in the SS, on June 21st, 1943. I would also inform the Tribunal that he and Ribbentrop were the only two Germans to be awarded the Adlerorden, a distinction normally reserved for foreigners. His seventieth birthday, February 2 1943, was made an occasion for most of the German newspapers to praise his many years of service to the Nazi regime. This service, as submitted by the prosecution, may be summed up in two ways:

(1)He was an internal Fifth Columnist amongst Conservative political circles in Germany. They had been anti-Nazi but were converted in part by seeing one of themselves, in the person of this defendant, wholeheartedly with the Nazis.

(2) His previous reputation as a diplomat made public opinion abroad slow to believe that he would be a member of a cabinet which did not stand by its words and assurances. It was most important for Hitler that his own readiness to break every treaty or commitment should be concealed as long as possible, and for this purpose he found in the defendant von Neurath his handiest tool.

That concludes the presentation against the defendant von Neurath.

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