The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eighty-Fourth Day: Monday, 18th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 171]


THE PRESIDENT: Had Dr. Kubuschok finished his cross- examination?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Then would any other of the defendants' counsel wish to examine or cross-examine?

PROFESSOR KRAUS (deputy for Dr. Luedinghausen, counsel for the defendant von Neurath): I ask your permission to put several questions to the witness.

Q. Witness, at the Munich conferences Hitler, it is alleged, put the following question: "What is to happen if the Czechs are not in agreement with our occupation of the Sudetenland?" Thereupon Daladier answered, "Then we will force them." Is that correct?

A. This question was actually broached by the Fuehrer during the discussion. Premier Daladier said, in substance, whether in the same words or not, something which corresponds to the sense of this statement. As far as I can still remember fairly exactly, he emphasised that now a decision in that direction had been reached by the Great Powers for the purpose of maintaining peace, this peace must not be threatened anew by Czechoslovakia's refusal, otherwise neither England nor France would feel itself in any way duty bound to help, if Czechoslovakia did not follow this advice.

Q. Witness, how long have you known Herr von Neurath?

A. As far as I recall, I saw Herr von Neurath for a short time when he was the German Ambassador to Denmark in 1919, but only for a short time. Later I met him again just before the accession to power and spoke to him very briefly, I believe; my closer relationship and acquaintance begins from the time after the accession to power.

Q. Did you have any closer knowledge of his activities as Ambassador in London?

A. That is correct. I did know about his work before, because even in former times, that is, in 1931 and 1932, before Herr von Neurath became Foreign Minister, in discussions about the possible formation of a Cabinet we also considered the name of Herr von Neurath as a candidate, even though he did not belong to the Party. As a basic consideration in this connection, his very position as Ambassador to England played the main role, since we, that is, Hitler as well as I, were of the opinion that Herr von Neurath's relations as Ambassador to the English Government were very good and that Herr von Neurath could be an essential factor in this field - that of good relations with England - which was a basic consideration in the Fuehrer's foreign policy.

Q. Then I may assume that Herr von Neurath had pursued a policy of peace and understanding in London?

A. Yes, you can assume just that.

Q. Yes, and can you tell me if, beyond that, Herr von Neurath made efforts in his capacity as Foreign Minister as well, to continue this policy of peace and understanding?

A. When Reich President von Hindenburg made it a condition which I have already mentioned, that Herr von Neurath must become Foreign Minister, the Fuehrer was in full agreement with this condition, because he saw that the task

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of establishing good relations with England and the West was in good hands. Herr von Neurath always made every effort in this direction.

Q. I should like to deal with another series of questions.

Were you present at the meeting of the Reich Cabinet on 30th January, 1937, during which Hitler gave the Golden Party Emblem to those members of the Cabinet who were not members of the Party, among them also Herr von Neurath?

A. Yes, I was present.

Q. And do you know that Hitler declared on this occasion that it was purely a distinction, such as the conferring of an Order, and that those gentlemen concerned did not thereby become Party members and did not have obligations toward the Party?

A. I would not put it just that way. The Fuehrer was speaking spontaneously, since it was the anniversary of the seizure of power, and he said it was his intention in this way to show his confidence in those members of the Reich Cabinet who did not belong to the Party. I believe he used the words, "I should like to ask them to accept this Party Emblem." He said at the time that in his opinion this was a decoration and that he intended, as he actually did later, to develop additional grades of this decoration. The first grade of this decoration was to be the Golden Party Emblem. Then, on the spur of the moment, he stepped up to the various Ministers and handed them this emblem. He neither emphasised thereby that they were to consider themselves members of the Party nor did he emphasise that they were not Party members.

When he came to Herr von Eltz-Ruebenach, this gentleman asked whether he was thereby obliged to support the anti- clerical tendency of certain Party circles, or something to that effect. The Fuehrer hesitated for a minute and said, "Then you do not wish to accept it?" Whereupon Herr von Eltz said, "I do not wish to say that. I just wish to make a certain reservation." The Fuehrer was taken aback; immediately he turned around and left the Cabinet room.

In this connection it is not correct, as has been maintained, that Herr von Eltz resigned voluntarily because of this. I followed the Fuehrer immediately and felt, as did all the other gentlemen, that this incident was an insult to the Fuehrer, since membership in the Party had not been mentioned at all. In addition, and this is very important, the Fuehrer had already visualised the plan to break up the Ministry of Transportation and to re-establish the old Postal Ministry and to put the railway expert, Dorpmuller, into the Ministry of Transportation. The Fuehrer had told me this previously and, as he had left it to me to tell von Eltz this gradually in a diplomatic way, I took this opportunity and went to Herr von Eltz and told him: "Your behaviour was impossible and I believe the only thing for you to do is to resign at this point." He said, "I did not mean it that way," and he was not willing to hand in his resignation right away. I then asked him just as abruptly to do so by that evening. I also sent Secretary Meissner to tell him that it would be advisable for him to leave the Cabinet and hand in his resignation immediately, especially in view of - and then I gave the explanations concerning the postal authorities and the railways as I have just given them.

That was what happened at that conference in regard to the Golden Party Emblem.

Q. Witness, were you present when Hitler, on the evening of 11th March, 1938, told Herr von Neurath in the Reich Chancellery about the entry of troops into Austria, and informed him of the reasons for this move, and asked that the Foreign Ministry be informed accordingly because he himself had to leave?

A. I already mentioned in my remarks about Austria that Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop was not present. Since the Fuehrer had delegated the representation of the Reich to me, I had asked him to ask Herr von Neurath to put his,

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experience in foreign affairs at my disposal during this time. Thereupon Herr von Neurath was asked to come to the Reich Chancellery that evening, I believe, and the Fuehrer told him in broad outlines what you have just said. It was to the effect that, if I needed it and requested it, he was to advise me on foreign political matters, since the Foreign Minister was not present and I had no experience in answering diplomatic notes, and since it was to be expected that some foreign political matters, such as protests and notes at least, would come up during the Fuehrer's absence.

Q. Then one is to conclude that Herr von Neurath was not the deputy of the Foreign Minister but only in his absence was to serve as sort of adviser to you?

A. He was not the deputy of the Foreign Minister; that would not at all have been in keeping with his position and his rank. The deputy of the Foreign Minister was the acting State Secretary.

Q. Von Weizsaecker?

A. I believe it was Herr von Mackensen at that time. He also signed current correspondence in the absence of the Foreign Minister, and Herr von Neurath was only my adviser in such foreign political matters as were expected to come up in connection with the Austrian case.

Q. Do you know of the protest which came from the British Ambassador on 11th March, 1938, which was addressed, strangely enough, to Herr von Neurath and in which the British Ambassador protested against the marching in of German troops?

A. That is not at all so strange, for on the evening of the marching in of the troops I personally, as I have explained, spoke to the British Ambassador for two hours and told him that the Fuehrer was going to Austria the next day, that I would administer the Reich and had for this purpose requested Herr von Neurath to be my foreign political adviser, since Sir Neville Henderson had already hinted that this would not be tolerated without protests. This information the British Ambassador had thus already received from me the evening before. This piece of information explains the fact that he turned to Herr von Neurath, inasmuch as I had emphasised to him, "If you come around with your old notes of protest, I personally cannot do very much with them."

Q. Did Herr von Neurath, after the Foreign Minister had formulated the answer to the protest, notify you by telephone of this answer and did he ask you whether you would sign this answer as Hitler's deputy?

A. Yes, of course, since I was Deputy Head of State. He had to inform me of the reply and it is also a matter of course that I told him, "You sign," for as Deputy Head of State I could not sign diplomatic notes.

Q. Thank you.

DR. SERVATIUS (counsel for the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party):

Q. Witness, how far were the political leaders informed of the Fuehrer's foreign political intentions beforehand?

A. "Political Leaders" is a very comprehensive concept. It includes everyone from the Reichsleiter to the Blockleiter or Zellenleiter. Instruction of the entire body of political leaders in regard to foreign political matters quite naturally and understandably never took place, and could not take place, unless the Fuehrer publicly made known his general foreign political intentions to the entire nation either in the Reichstag or over the radio. The higher officers of the political leaders, for instance the Reichsleiter or the Gauleiter, were likewise never called together as a group in order to be informed of political intentions which the Fuehrer did not want to announce publicly.

He may personally have mentioned his intentions to one or other of the political leaders, who at the same time held another State office, or who was for some other reason in his confidence. I should first have to think over where

[Page 174]

that might have been the case. He certainly did not do it to any unit or sub-unit. In his speeches to the Gauleiters after the events had taken place, he merely referred to these things each time in retrospect and explained and unfolded his political intentions, which he had, however, already realised by then.

DR. SERVATIUS: I have no further questions.

DR. HORN (counsel for the defendant von Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, do you know to what extent von Ribbentrop was informed about military plans and intentions in his capacity as Foreign Minister?

A. I do not know the exact details. In general the same principle applies, here too, that only those offices which were competent, as far as these intentions were concerned, were kept informed, particularly so in the case of military intentions. Just how much the Fuehrer told Herr von Ribbentrop now and again in conversations about his military plans I did not know.

Q. Is it correct that Hitler set down the guiding principles for all policies, including the foreign policy?

A. That is a matter of course. Foreign policy above all was the Fuehrer's very own realm. By that I mean to say that foreign policy on the one hand, and the leadership of the Armed Forces on the other hand, enlisted the Fuehrer's greatest interest and were his main activity.

Q. Should I conclude from that that he was interested in the details of foreign policy as well?

A. He busied himself exceptionally with these details, as I have just stated, and with a particularly great interest in both of these fields.

Q. Did Hitler expressly instruct you to keep secret the memorandum on Poland of 30th August, 1939?

A. He did not expressly instruct me. I do not know whether he knew that I had it in my pocket. But, in general, he had given such instructions since he had instructed the one who would have had to hand it over, namely Herr von Ribbentrop, not to hand it over, so that I actually handed over this memorandum against the express order of the Fuehrer, which constitutes a risk that probably only I - please do not misunderstand me - indeed I alone could take and afford.

Q. You mentioned a few days ago the diversified influence which the various personages had on Hitler. Do you know any facts from which we might conclude that Ribbentrop also did not have enough influence on Hitler to change decisions once made by him.

A. As far as influence on Hitler, on the Fuehrer, is concerned, that is a problematical subject. I should like first to confine myself to the question of Herr von Ribbentrop's influence. Herr von Ribbentrop definitely had no influence in the sense that he could have steered Hitler in any one direction. To what extent arguments of an objective nature may perhaps have definitely influenced the Fuehrer sometimes to do this or that in respect of foreign political matters, or to refrain from doing it or to change it, would have depended entirely on the strength of the arguments and the facts. To what extent that may sometimes have played a role I cannot say, for I was not present at 99 per cent. of the Fuehrer's conferences with Herr von Ribbentrop. But Herr von Ribbentrop had at no time such influence that he could have said, "Do this" or "Do not do it, I consider this a mistake," when the Fuehrer was convinced of the correctness of any matter.

Q. Do you know any facts or observations which might point to the existence of a conspiracy in the highest circles of the Government?

A. "Conspiracy" may be variously interpreted. Conspiracies naturally never took place in the sense that men secretly came together and discussed extensive plans in darkness and seclusion. As to conspiracy in the sense that the Fuehrer had comprehensive conferences, and as a result of these conferences

[Page 175]

decided upon joint undertakings, one can only talk of conspiracy here to the extent - and I beg of you again not to misunderstand me - that this took place between the Fuehrer and me until, say, 1941. There was no one who could even approach working as closely with the Fuehrer and who was as essentially familiar with his thoughts and who had the same influence as I. Therefore at best only the Fuehrer and I could have conspired. There is definitely no question of the others.

Q. American war propaganda consistently spoke of Germany's aggressive intentions toward the Western Hemisphere. What do you know about this?

A. The Western Hemisphere? Do you mean America?

Q. Yes.

A. Even if Germany had completely dominated the nations of Europe, between Germany and the American continent there are, as far as I still recall from my geographic knowledge, about 6,000 kilometres of water, I believe. In view of the smallness of the German fleet and the regrettable lack of bombers to cover this distance, which I already mentioned, there was never any question of a threat against the American continent; on the contrary, we were always afraid of that danger in reverse, and we would have been very glad if it had not been necessary to consider this at all.

As far as South America is concerned, I know that we were always accused, by propaganda at least, of economic penetration and attempted domination there. If one considers the financial and commercial possibilities which Germany had before and during the war, and if one compares them with those of Great Britain or America, one can see the untenability of such a statement. With the very little foreign exchange and the tremendous export difficulties which we had, we could never constitute a real danger or be in competition. If that had been the case, the attitude of the South American countries would presumably have been a different one. Not the mark, but only the dollar ruled there.

DR. HORN: Thank you.

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