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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Sixty-First Day: Saturday, 22th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 4)

[DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN continues his direct examination of Constantin von Neurath]

[Page 99]

Q. By whom and when were you appointed Reich Foreign Minister, and how did that appointment come about?

A. I was appointed Foreign Minister on 2nd June, 1932, by President von Hindenburg. As early as 1929, after Stresemann's death, Hindenburg had wanted to appoint me Foreign Minister. At that time I refused, because in view of the party conditions existing in the Reichstag in those days I saw no possibility for a stable foreign policy. I was not a member of any of the thirty or so parties,

[Page 100]

so that I would not have been able to find any kind of support in the Reichstag of those days.

Hindenburg, however, obtained my promise that I would answer his call if the Fatherland should find itself in an emergency.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, may I quote the telegram in which the Foreign Office informed Herr von Neurath of the fact that the Reich President desired that he should take a leading position in the Government at that time. This is a copy of the telegram which was transmitted to him by telephone, number 6 in my document book:

"For the Ambassador personally, to be deciphered by himself. Berlin, 31st May, 1932."
It was addressed to London.
"The Reich President requests you, in view of your former promise, to take over the Foreign Ministry in the presidential cabinet now being formed and which will be made up of right-wing personalities free from political party allegiance and will be supported not so much by the Reichstag as by the authority of the Reich President. The Reich President addresses an urgent appeal to you not to refuse your services to the Fatherland in this difficult hour. Should you not be able to give a favourable answer immediately I ask you to return at once!"
It is signed by Bulow, who was at that time the State Secretary of the Foreign Office.

I also draw your attention to a copy of the letter from the chief of the political department of the Foreign Office about Neurath's appointment to the post of Reich Foreign Minister, a letter which had been written to a friend of his, Ambassador Ruemelin, at the time. The writer of this letter, Ministerial Director Dr. Koepke, will confirm the correctness of the letter in his examination before this Tribunal - that is to say, the fact that this is the carbon copy of the original addressed to Ambassador Ruemelin.

I believe, therefore, that at this moment I need not read the document, which is No. 8 in my document book.


Q. Did you light-heartedly decide to answer von Hindenburg's call and take over that difficult post, doubly difficult as it was in those days?

A. No, not at all. I was not the least bit keen about taking over the post of Foreign Minister at that time. I liked my post as Ambassador in London, enjoyed good relations there with the Government and the Royal Family, and I was hoping, therefore, that I could continue to be of service to both countries, Great Britain and Germany. However, I could not simply overlook Hindenburg's appeal, but even then I did not decide until after I had had a lengthy personal discussion with him, in which I stated my own aims and ideas regarding German foreign policy and I assured myself of his support of a peaceful development and the means of attaining equality for Germany, the strengthening of her position in the council of nations and the regaining of sovereignty over German national territory.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I in this connection refer to the affidavit of former Ambassador Pruefer, which I have already cited and which is No. 4 in my document book. I should like to quote paragraph 7, which refers to the appointment of the defendant by Hindenburg. In my German text this is Page 27.

"In the circles of the higher officials of the Foreign Office ... it was a well-known fact that when Hindenburg appointed Hitler Reich Chancellor he practically attached the condition that Neurath should remain in office as Foreign Minister. Baron Neurath in no way pushed himself into this office when he assumed it in 1932. On the contrary, as early as 1929, when Hindenburg asked him to accept the ministerial post, he had declined on

[Page 101]

the ground that, not being a member of a party and thus being without party support, he could not consider himself suited to take over a Ministry in a State ruled according to the parliamentary principle. It was not until 1932, when Reich President von Hindenburg, whom he especially revered, formed his first so-called presidential cabinet, that Neurath dropped his misgivings and entered this cabinet as Foreign Minister."
BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: What was your judgement of the internal political situation at the time?

A. The development of party relations in 1932 had come to such a head that I was of the opinion that there were only two possibilities: Either there would have to be some participation of the National Socialist Party, which had grown strong in numbers, in the Government; or, should this demand be turned down, there would be civil war.

The details regarding the formation of the Government in 1933 and Hitler's coming to power have been thoroughly described by the defendant von Papen.

Q. What was your own judgement of and your attitude towards Hitler, towards National Socialism in general and National Socialist ideas and, in particular, towards the Party?

A. I did not know Hitler personally. I despised the methods of the Party during their struggle for power in the State; its ideas were not known to me in detail.Some of them, particularly in the socialistic sphere, seemed good to me; others I considered revolutionary phenomena which would be gradually worn away in the manner I had observed during the German revolution in 1918 and later during the Fascist revolution in Italy as well. On the whole, however, I was not in sympathy with them; in any case, in those days I considered that the decisive role played by Hitler and the National Socialist Party in German politics and Hitler's solo leadership of German politics was wrong, and not in the interest of Germany, especially not in the interest of German foreign policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I in this connection quote another passage from the aforementioned affidavit of Ambassador Pruefer, No. 4 in my document book, on Page 28. It is interesting in so far as Pruefer was an official in the defendant's Ministry:

"Baron von Neurath was not a National Socialist. By reason of his origin and tradition he was decidedly opposed to the National Socialist doctrine, in so far as it contained radical and violent principles. This aversion, which he did not attempt to conceal, was particularly directed towards excesses by branches of the Party against people with different views, especially against the Jews and persons of partly Jewish ancestry; beyond that it was directed against the general interference of the National Socialist party in every vital expression of the German people and State, in other words against the claim to totalitarianism, the Fuehrer principle - in short, against dictatorship. During the years 1936-1938, when in my capacity as head of the budget and personnel section I saw him very frequently, Freiherr von Neurath told me and others in my presence in unmistakable terms how much the increasingly extreme tendency in German internal and foreign policy filled him with anxiety and disgust."
Mr. President, may I also ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the questionnaire of Count Schwering Krosigk, the former Reich Minister of Finance, which is No. 25 in my document book.


Q. Now, proceeding to your foreign political ideas, thoughts and principles, what was your attitude towards the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations?

A. It is in the senseless and impossible provisions of the Versailles Treaty, through which the economic system of the entire world was brought into a state of disorder, that the roots of National Socialism and, with it, the causes of the

[Page 102]

Second World War are to be found. By combining this treaty with the League of Nations and by making the League of Nations to a certain extent the guardian of the provisions of this treaty, its original purpose, namely, that of creating understanding among the nations and preserving the peace, became an illusion. To be sure, the Charter allowed for the possibility of revision. But the League of Nations assembly made no use of this possibility. After the United States had withdrawn from participation, and Russia, and later Japan, also stood outside this so-called League of Nations, it consisted in the large majority only of a collection of interested parties desiring to maintain the status quo; the status quo, to be sure, which had been created by the Treaty of Versailles. Instead of removing the tensions which appeared again and again in the course of time, it was the aim of this assembly not to alter the existing state of affairs at all. That a great and honour- loving nation, discriminated against as it was by the Versailles Treaty, could not put up with this for any length of time, was something which any farseeing statesman could recognize, and it was not only in Germany that it was pointed out again and again that this must lead to an evil end. But all in Geneva, the playground of eloquent and vain politicians, were deaf to that argument. It is undeniably an historic fact that German foreign policy under all governments preceding Hitler's had aimed at bringing about a change in the Treaty of Versailles, though exclusively by peaceful means.

Q. Was this policy also that of Hindenburg or would Hindenburg perhaps have been disposed to choose another solution, a solution by violence and war?

A. No, in no case; not even if Germany had had the military means for that purpose. He told me again and again that a new war would have to be avoided at all costs.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I draw your attention to and ask you to take judicial notice of an extract from a speech made by Count Bernstorff, who was Germany's representative in the League of Nations, on 25th September, 1928. It is No. 24 of my Document Book 2. The translation, however, is not yet available. It will be submitted, I hope, on Monday. I also refer to and beg you to take judicial notice of an extract from the speech of former Reich Chancellor Bruning in Kiel on 19th May, 1931, which is No. 36 in my Document Book 2. Also to an extract from the speech made by former Reich Foreign Minister Curtius, the successor and friend of Reich Chancellor Stresemann, who had died shortly before, which Curtius made to the League of Nations Assembly.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I was telling Herr von Ludinghausen that I have got Volume 2. I do not know if the Tribunal have the English translation.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not think we have. Sir David, have the prosecution agreed to the relevancy, the admissibility of these documents?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, we are not going to make an objection to short references such as have been made so far. Your Lordship will appreciate that I have already stated the position of the prosecution with regard to the Treaty of Versailles, but as long as it is kept within reasonable bounds as a matter of introduction, I am not making any formal objection.

THE PRESIDENT: Herr von Ludinghausen, the Tribunal has ruled out of evidence a variety of documents which are alleged to show the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles; as the prosecution have adopted the attitude which they have, the Tribunal will regard these as mere historical documents, but the matter is really irrelevant. The only question is whether the defendants have attempted to overturn the Treaty of Versailles by force. We are not concerned with the justice or injustice.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No, Mr. President, I did not submit the document in order to criticise the Versailles Treaty. I merely wanted to establish

[Page 103]

the fact that previous governments, too, had pursued with peaceful means the same aims which my client later pursued as Reich Foreign Minister, so that, under his direction, there was no change whatsoever in the nature and aims of German foreign policy with reference to the Western Powers. That was the reason, and not criticism as such.

THE PRESIDENT: I know, Dr. von Ludinghausen, but all the evidence that the defendant has been giving in the last few minutes was criticism of the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, that was his general introduction but I was only trying to prove the continuity of policy.


Q. What were your own views regarding the continuation of the foreign policy of the Reich, with reference to the question which we have just dealt with?

A. It was my view that the solution of the various political problems could be achieved only by peaceful means and step by step. Complete equality for Germany in all fields, in the military field, therefore, as well, and also the restoration of sovereignty in the entire territory of the Reich and the elimination of any discrimination were prerequisite conditions. But to achieve this was primarily the first task of German foreign policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I should once more like to refer you to the affidavit by Ambassador Pruefer, which is No. 4 in my document book, and I should like, with the permission of the Tribunal, to quote from this, in order to support the statements just made by the defendant, a part of paragraph 12:

"Neurath's policy was one of international understanding and peace. This policy was not inconsistent with the fact that Herr von Neurath also strove for a revision of the severe provisions of the Versailles Treaty. However, he wanted to bring this about exclusively by negotiation and in no case by force. All utterances and directives of his, which I as his co-worker ever heard or saw, moved in this direction. The fact that Baron Neurath considered himself a defender of the peace is perhaps best illustrated by a statement he made when leaving the Foreign Office. He declared at that time to a small group of his colleagues that now war could probably no longer be avoided. He probably meant by this that now foreign policy would be transferred from his hands to those of reckless persons."
Q. Herr von Neurath, then you agreed entirely with Hindenburg in absolutely rejecting any use of force for the purpose of achieving this objective, the revision of the Treaty of Versailles, but considered the attainment of this goal possible by peaceful methods, and were a convinced opponent of any military steps, which you considered would be the greatest possible misfortune not only for Germany but for the entire world?

A. Yes. Germany and the whole world were still in the midst of the serious economic crisis which had been caused by the regulations of the Treaty of Versailles. Any new military steps, therefore, could lead only to a great disaster.

Q. On 2nd June, 1932, a few days after you had entered your new office as Foreign Minister, the meeting of the so-called reparations conference began in Lausanne, and you and the new Reich Chancellor, von Papen, participated. Will you tell us very briefly what the purpose of that conference was?

A. The reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, which had never been definitely fixed, were now formally to be settled completely, that is, the final sum was to be decided on. This purpose was accomplished.

Q. At the same time, was not there a meeting of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva?

A. Yes, at almost the same time.

[Page 104]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection, for the purpose of general understanding, I should like to point out that the institution of the Disarmament Conference goes back to a resolution passed by the League of Nations on 25th September, 1928, in which the close connection between international security, that is to say, peace among all the European States, and the limitation of armament was emphasized. In this connection, I should like to refer to the text of the resolution passed by the League of Nations, which is No. 33 in my document book. That is on Page 90 of Document Book 2.


Q. Can you give us a brief account of the course of these disarmament negotiations?

A. Yes; naturally, it is very difficult to give a short account. The Disarmament Conference had been created by the League of Nations for the purpose of bringing about the disarmament of all nations, which was provided for in Article 8, on the basis of the German disarmament which had already been carried out by 1927. The negotiations during this Disarmament Conference were, however, brought to an end after a short time, despite the objections of the German representatives. The previous negotiations and this adjournment made it quite clear, even at that time, that those States which had not disarmed were not prepared to carry through their own disarmament in accordance with the standards and methods applied to Germany's previous disarmament. This fact made it impossible for Germany to accept a resolution which had been proposed to the Disarmament Conference at this time, and the German representative therefore received instructions to declare that Germany would not participate in the work of the Disarmament Conference as long as Germany's equal right to equal participation in the results of the conference was not recognized.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, shall we adjourn now?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, Mr. President.

(A recess was taken.)

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