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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninetieth Day: Monday, 25rd March, 1946
(Part 8 of 11)

[Page 40]

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Colonel Pokrovsky, you see the witness was allowed to Dr. Seidl. Therefore, Dr. Seidl could have put him in the witness box and could have asked him questions, and the only reason for doing it by way of an affidavit is to get the matter cleared and more quickly. So if we were to order that this affidavit was not to be used, we should then have Dr. Seidl asking the witness questions, and probably, I am afraid, taking up rather longer than it would to read the affidavit, and you would not object to that.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: Perhaps the Tribunal would find it advisable to have Dr. Seidl ask the witness those questions which have already been answered in the affidavit? It seems to me that that would give us an opportunity to reconcile this, contradiction, especially since there are only a few questions and the first three, as far as I can understand, are mostly of a historical nature and connected with the organisation of the Institute in Stuttgart, in 1917.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Pokrovsky, I have not read the affidavit yet so I am afraid I am not in a position to deal with that point.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: All right, I withdraw my objection.

THE PRESIDENT: Call your witness then now.

(The witness Karl Stroelin took the stand)

[Page 41]


Q. What is your name?

A. Karl Stroelin.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down if you wish.



Q. Witness, you were last Lord Mayor of the City of Stuttgart, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. In this capacity were you also Honorary President of the German Auslands-institut?

A. Yes.

Q. You signed a sworn affidavit this morning which I shall now read to you.

"1. The German Auslandsinstitut was founded in Stuttgart in the year 1917. The fact that Stuttgart was chosen as the seat of this Institute is connected with the fact that the Swabian district has always furnished a particularly high percentage of emigrants. That is precisely why there arose in Stuttgart the need to create an institution for the purpose of keeping up a patriotic connection between the old and the new homeland. The German Auslandsinstitut was to serve this purpose. It had the following tasks:-
(a) Scientific research on Germanism in the world.

(b) Maintaining cultural connections with the emigrants.

(c) Informing the people at home about Germanism abroad and about foreign countries.

For scientific research the German Auslandsinstitut had a library of more than one hundred thousand volumes on folklore and newspaper files concerning Germanism abroad. For this purpose they submitted and utilised nearly all newspapers which were published abroad in the German language and a large number of newspapers in foreign languages. An extensive collection of pictures was in one filing room. As the Germans abroad become increasingly interested in the homeland, genealogical research took on ever greater proportions.

In addition to its activities of collecting and registering, the German Auslandsinstitut also had advisory and representative functions. The question of emigration was a subject for consultation for a long time. This required that the German Auslandsinstitut be informed regarding the living conditions and the possibility of finding employment in the individual areas to which they immigrated.

The material of the German Auslandsinstitut was placed at the disposal of the various offices and organisations upon request. The representative activities of the German Auslandsinstitut consisted mainly in organising exhibitions. The centre of this activity was the Museum of Germandom Abroad in Stuttgart. The scientific work of the German Auslandsinstitut found expression particularly in the books, magazines, and calendars of a native character which it published. The connections with the Germans abroad was maintained by sending out such publications. The guiding thought of the German Auslandsinstitut in its relations with the Germans abroad was that these Germans abroad were to be the connecting links between nations in order to strengthen mutual understanding and the desire for collaboration. They were to be the envoys of friendship between their old and their new homeland. As President of the German Auslandsinstitut, I particularly emphasised

[Page 42]

this thought in the speech which I made at Madison Square Garden in New York City in October, 1936, on the occasion of 'German Day'. Moreover the German Auslandsinstitut had no arrangements or representatives abroad to act as agents for these corresponding members. Direct or individual care for Germans abroad was not the task of the German Auslandsinstitut. The welfare of German nationals abroad was taken care of by the Auslands Organisation of the NSDAP. Relations with the Volksdeutsche were maintained by the 'Volksbund fuer das Deutschtum im Ausland' (People's League For Germanism in Foreign Lands).

2. The German Auslandsinstitut never engaged in any activities which could be termed 'Fifth Column' activities. No one has ever made a request of this nature to me or to the institute.

3. Rudolf Hess, the Deputy of the Fuehrer, did not exert any influence on the activities of the institute. He issued no directives or instructions which could have induced the institute to undertake any activity along the lines of 'Fifth Column' work."

Witness, are these statements correct?

A. These statements are correct.

DR. SEIDL: I have at the moment no further questions to direct to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions of this witness?

DR. VON LUEDINGHAUSEN (Defence Counsel for defendant von Neurath): May it please the Tribunal, I should like to ask the witness a few questions.


Q. First, from when to when were you Lord Mayor of Stuttgart?

A. From 1933 until the end of the war.

Q. And how long have you known the defendant von Neurath? What was his position and his reputation at the time?

A. I have known von Neurath since the first World War. At that time, at the end of the first World War, he was Chief of the Cabinet of the King of Wurttemberg and his reputation was excellent. In my capacity as Lord Mayor I met von Neurath more frequently. In 1938 von Neurath became an honorary citizen of the city of Stuttgart.

Q. You were more closely connected with him later when he returned from Czechoslovakia?

A. When he returned from Czechoslovakia Herr von Neurath retired to his estate of Leinfelden in the vicinity of Stuttgart and here I had closer and more active connection with him.

Q. What do you know about his ancestry, his family, his education, his personality, in general?

A. Von Neurath comes from an old Swabian family. His father was Lord Chamberlain of the King of Wurttemberg. His grandfather and his great grandfather were ministers. Von Neurath was very much respected as a dignified character, distinguished personality, always ready to help, extraordinarily humane, very conscientious, straight-forward and frank.

Q. During his activity as foreign minister and possibly later, did you have an opportunity to discuss politics with him and particularly his views on foreign policy?

A. Von Neurath repeatedly discussed these matters with me, but of course, only in general terms. As Reich Foreign Minister he was convinced that Germany would succeed in getting by peaceful means the place in the world which she deserved. He rejected any other way. He strove to build up and strengthen relations of mutual confidence with other European powers, particularly with England. He was convinced that it was precisely in this field that he had done everything possible.

Later, I had occasion to examine with him Henderson's book "Two Years

[Page 43]

with Hitler," which particularly emphasised how extremely popular von Neurath has been in London at that time. I recall that we also discussed the sentence written by Henderson, that he admired von Neurath's honest devotion to peace and to peaceful and friendly relations with England. Von Neurath was also greatly concerned with the cultivation of better relations with the United States. I recall that he discussed the subject with me after my trip to America, and said that I had done well to emphasise in my various speeches Germany's desire for friendship with the United States. I also remember how severely von Neurath criticised the tone of Hitler's speech made in the beginning of 1939 in reply to Roosevelt's message. He said at that time that the international tension was increased by that speech. Then von Neurath spoke of the Munich Agreement, in which he had been an active participant. Later, he very frequently spoke of the tragedy that was implicit in the fact that despite all efforts, the relation between England and Germany had not remained one of continuing confidence. He pointed out how tragic it was for Europe and for the world. All my conversations with von Neurath convinced me that he desired an understanding and a peaceful settlement and that he would never have pursued a policy that might lead to war.

Q. What were the reasons for his appointment as an honorary citizen of Stuttgart? This happened after he resigned his office as Reich Foreign Minister, did it not?

A. He was appointed in 1938, on the. occasion of his fifty- sixth birthday on 2nd February, 1938. This appointment was to express to von Neurath the gratitude and appreciation not only of the people of Stuttgart but of all Swabia for his manifest love of peace and the calm and prudence with which he had conducted foreign affairs. It was also an indication of respect for his honest and incorruptible character.

Q. Witness, the British prosecution asserts that von Neurath repeatedly assured foreign governments or their representatives that Germany had no military or aggressive intentions toward these states, but that these assurances were in fact given for the sake of appearances, in order to lull these states into a false sense of security, because even then von Neurath knew and approved of the fact that Hitler actually had aggressive intentions toward these states.

From your knowledge of his personality do you consider von Neurath capable of such infamy?

A. No, I do not consider him capable of such action.

Q. Did von Neurath inform you at the time of his resignation from his position as foreign minister?

A. By chance, I was with von Neurath in the foreign ministry on 4th February, 1938, at the very moment when his resignation was accepted. He described how this resignation came about. He said that until the end of the year 1937 he had been convinced that Hitler was completely in sympathy with the foreign policy which he was pursuing and that Hitler as well as himself had not wanted to chance an armed conflict, but at the end of 1937 Hitler had altogether unexpectedly changed his attitude; he had suddenly struck a different note, and it was impossible to decide whether it was to be taken seriously. Von Neurath went on to say that in a personal conversation with Hitler, he had attempted to persuade him not to take this altered view, but that he had the impression that he had lost his influence over Hitler, and this prompted him to submit his resignation.

Q. After, or rather simultaneously with his discharge from the foreign ministry, von Neurath was appointed President of the Secret Cabinet Council. Do you know anything about this appointment? How and why he received it and what he did in this capacity?

A. He received this appointment as President of the Secret Cabinet Council at the same time that his resignation was accepted, but this Cabinet never convened; this was also true of the Reich Cabinet. The Secret Cabinet was to be convened by Hitler personally, and Hitler had simply not done this. Von Neurath

[Page 44]

believed later that he had been appointed to this post as President, in order to conceal from foreign countries that the former foreign minister no longer had any influence on the policy of the Reich.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Luedinghausen, I do not see how this witness can know whether the Secret Cabinet Council was ever called. In any event we have already heard it from Goering, and presumably we shall hear it again from the defendant von Neurath, in which case it is grossly cumulative. I do not think we should waste the time of the Tribunal with it.


Q. Did you occasionally speak to von Neurath regarding his attitude toward the Nazi Party?

A. Von Neurath's attitude toward the Party was critical and disapproving at first he disapproved and waited to see what would develop. His relations with the Party were poor. The Party was of the opinion that von Neurath was not a National Socialist.

Q. Did you ever discuss with him the policy of the Nazis toward the Christian churches, that is, the Catholic and the Protestant church?

A. Von Neurath was a faithful Christian and disapproved of the policy of the Party toward the Christian churches. He particularly supported Bishop Bohr's efforts to maintain freedom of religion. He used his influence to see to it that seminaries which had been requisitioned were released. Following a discussion with von Neurath I visited Church Minister Kerrl personally and discussed with him the question of policy toward the church. I discovered that Church Minister Kerrl was making every effort to represent and carry out the ideas of positive Christianity. However, he did not succeed because his work was continually sabotaged, particularly by Himmler and Bormann.

Q. Later, when von Neurath retired to his estate Leinfelden, did you discuss his activities as Reich Protector with him?

A. Von Neurath said that he took the post as Reich Protector in Bohemia and Moravia most unwillingly and that he had refused it twice, but finally decided that he must make this sacrifice. He believed that it was precisely there that he could act as an intermediary and bring about reconciliation. He had considerable difficulties with Himmler and Frank; he told me of his efforts to gain better treatment for the Czechs, and of the protests which he made to Hitler in vain. Once, when I visited von Neurath in Prague, there I was invited to visit President Hacha, who told me emphatically how pleased he was that von Neurath had been sent to Bohemia and Moravia, since he was to be trusted and was fulfilling the function of an intermediary in every respect. Von Neurath told me that he was recalled and replaced because in his treatment of the Czechs, he was too mild for the Fuehrer, who preferred a particularly trustworthy S.S. Leader in that position.

Q. Who was to be appointed to that post?

A. That was Heydrich.

Q. Was that von Neurath's reason for resigning?

A. Apparently.

Q. Now, von Neurath was also an Ehrengruppenfuehrer of the S.S. Did he tell you how he attained this - let us say - honour?

A. He told me that he was appointed Honorary Leader of the S.S. without having been consulted. When he asked the reason Hitler told him that Mussolini was soon to pay a visit and that he, Hitler, wanted everyone in his attendance to wear a uniform and since von Neurath had no uniform he appointed him an honorary leader of the S.S. Von Neurath said he did not intend to become one of Himmler's subordinates. Thereupon Hitler told him that that was not necessary, it was merely a question of wearing a uniform.

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