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 3 of 4)

[Page 104]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in regard to the question just put and answered, I should like to refer to various documents and ask you to take judicial notice of them. I am submitting and have submitted, in my Document Book 2, excerpts from the German memorandum of 29th August, 1932, in Document 40; excerpts from an interview of von Neurath with the representative of the Wolf Telegraph Bureau, the official German news agency of the German Reich, in Document 41 of Document Book 2; excerpts from a statement by Herr von Neurath to the representatives of the German Press on 30th September, 1932, in Document 45 of my Document Book 2; an excerpt from a letter of the defendant to the President of the Disarmament Conference, No. 43 of my Document Book 2; and finally, I should like to refer to a speech by the German representative in Geneva at the Disarmament Conference, which is No. 39 in my document book, which shows the development of the views and attitude of the defendant and thereby that of German policy towards the disarmament negotiations which were called again on 16th June at the Disarmament Conference.


Q. Herr von Neurath, in the documents just submitted you emphasized that the disarmament question must be solved exclusively by peaceful means, and that no violence of any kind should be used. Did this tendency expressed here actually correspond to your conviction and did it represent the guiding line, and indeed the exclusive guiding line, of your policy?

[Constantin von Neurath] A. Yes. During the whole period when I was Reich Foreign Minister no means were used which were not customary and internationally permissible.

Q. On the 16th, the negotiations in the Disarmament Conference were to begin again. What was the result of this meeting of the Disarmament Conference?

[Page 105]

A. England finally suggested a ... At first the Disarmament Conference accomplished nothing; but later there was the so- called Five-Power Declaration in December, 1932, which had been suggested by England. This declaration recognized Germany's claim to equal rights and to the elimination of those provisions of the Versailles Treaty which discriminated against Germany.

After this declaration, which was recognized by the five powers and later by the Disarmament Conference or the Council of the League of Nations itself, Germany's equal rights were recognized for all time. Therefore, Germany could make use of its right not to adhere to Part 5 of the Versailles Treaty with reference to the obligation of general disarmament undertaken by the signatory powers. This Five-Power Declaration provided the necessary condition for Germany taking part in the deliberations of the Disarmament Conference once more.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to refer to the text of the Five-Power Declaration of 11th December, 1932. It is No. 47A in my Document Book 2. I should also like to refer to an article by the defendant in Heimatdienst (Home Service) on this recognition of equal rights for Germany. The text is in No. 48 of my Document Book 2. That was at the time before the seizure of power.

Q. Now, in January, 1933, Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor and thus there came about the so-called seizure of power by the NSDAP. Did you participate in any form whatsoever in this seizure of power and in Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor?

A. No, I had no part in any stage of the negotiations regarding the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor. No one, not even the Reich President, and certainly no party leader, asked me for my opinion. I had no close relations with any of the party leaders, especially not with the leaders of the National Socialist Party. In regard to this Goering and Papen have testified with absolute correctness.

Q. What feelings did you yourself have on this question of Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor, in other words, on the question of the seizure of power by the Party?

A. I had serious misgivings, but, as I said at the beginning, in view of the party situation and the impossibility of forming a government against the National Socialists, I saw no other possibility unless one wanted to start a civil war, about the outcome of which there could be no doubt in view of the overwhelming number of Hitler's followers.

Q. In view of your attitude as you have just expressed it, for what reason did you remain Reich Foreign Minister in the newly formed Hitler Government?

A. At the urgent desire of Hindenburg.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like in this connection to refer to the affidavit of Baroness Ritter, No. 3 in my Document Book 1, which has already been mentioned, and with the permission of the Tribunal I should like to read a short passage from it:

"When in the year 1933 a new government was formed with Hitler as Reich Chancellor, Hindenburg imposed on Hitler the condition that Neurath should remain as Foreign Minister. Hindenburg therefore asked Neurath to stay, and Neurath complied with Hindenburg's wish in accordance with his previous promise. I know that in the course of time Neurath frequently had serious misgivings but was of the opinion that it was his patriotic duty to remain. In this connection I recall the especially fitting comparison of a large rock which by its position right in the middle of the river can decrease the force of the raging currents, while on the shore it would remain without influence. He frequently declared, 'If the Germans often wonder why I am co-operating with this government, then they always think only of the bad conditions without appreciating how much additional disaster I am still

[Page 106]

able to prevent. They forget what strength it takes to advance alone through a wall of myrmidons.'"
- by that Baroness von Ritter means the close circle surrounding Hitler - to advance through that to Hitler.


Q. Do you know for what reasons Hindenburg wanted you to remain, that is, to enter Hitler's Cabinet as Foreign Minister?

A. To secure the continuation of a peaceful foreign policy and to prevent Hitler from taking the rash steps which were so possible in view of his impulsive nature; in fact to act as a brake.

Q. Did not Hindenburg make it an actual condition for Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor that you should remain as Foreign Minister, that is, enter Hitler's Cabinet?

A. Yes, he told me so later.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, I should like to refer to the affidavit of former Ambassador Kurt Pruefer, No. 4 in my document book, and I should like to read a short excerpt from it.

"Since Hindenburg was a conservative, his basic political attitude ..."
THE PRESIDENT: What page is that?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Page 27, Exhibit 4.

"Since Hindenburg was a conservative, his basic political attitude was probably about the same as that of Baron Neurath. There was no doubt in the mind of anybody who was even slightly aware of the conditions, that Hindenburg himself, in vesting power in Hitler, did this reluctantly and only under the heavy pressure of domestic political developments. If, under such circumstances, he insisted and actually made it a condition that Baron Neurath, his former foreign political adviser, should remain in office, this undoubtedly was due to the fact that he wanted to assure himself of at least one steady pillar for foreign policy, that is, for peace, in the midst of the seething new forces which surely appeared sinister and displeasing to him personally."

Q. Did you talk to Hindenburg about this, and did you tell him of your reluctance, your misgivings about joining the Hitler Cabinet?

A. Yes, I did not leave him in any doubt about that.

Q. What did Hindenburg answer?

A. He told me that I would have to make this sacrifice; or else he would no longer have a single quiet hour; that Hitler had not yet had any experience whatsoever in matters of foreign policy.

Q. Was it only then and for this reason that you decided to join Hitler's Cabinet?

A. Yes. The British Prosecutor, Sir David, in the session of 1st March of this year, declared that by joining Hitler's Cabinet I had sold my honour and reputation. I refrain from commenting further on this most serious insult.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like in this connection to quote a sentence from the Diary of Ambassador Dodd 1933/37, which is No. 13 in my document book.

I should like to quote the entry under 6th April, 1934, on Page 100; that is Page 55 of the German text, which reads as follows. It is a remark of Dodd's which refers to Herr von Neurath:

"I am sorry for these clear-headed Germans who know world affairs very well and who must work for their country and yet submit to the ignorance and autocracy of Hitler and his followers."

[Page 107]


Q. In these talks with Hindenburg did you promise him that you would remain in the Cabinet as long as it would be at all possible for you to guide the foreign political course in peaceful directions and avoid warlike developments, even if at some future time Hindenburg should die?

A. Yes. He repeatedly expressed that wish to me.

Q. This was, no doubt, the reason why you remained in office after the death of Hindenburg?

A. Yes. But also because in the meantime I had discovered that Hitler, because of his excitable temperament, often let himself be carried away to rash steps and in this way could endanger the peace. On many occasions, however, I had also learned by experience that in such cases he would listen to my objections.

Q. The prosecution, as indeed you know, has particularly charged you with entering and remaining in Hitler's Cabinet as Foreign Minister, above all, with remaining in the Cabinet after Hindenburg's death.

A. How they can reproach me for that is completely inexplicable to me. I never belonged to a party; I never swore allegiance to party programmes, and I never swore any allegiance to the party leaders either. I served under the Imperial Government, was asked to re-enter the diplomatic service by the Socialist Government under Ebert, and appointed Minister and Ambassador by it. I have served under Democratic, Liberal and Conservative governments. Without identifying myself with their various programmes, and often in opposition to the party government of the time, I have pursued only the interests of my Fatherland in co-operation with the other powers.

There was no reason for me not to attempt to do the same under Hitler and the National Socialist Party. One could put oppositionist opinions into effect with any prospect of success only from the inside as a member of the Government. Freedom of speech and the use of the Press were forbidden in Germany, or at least made difficult. Personal freedom was endangered.

Moreover, it is not greatly different in other countries; I mean by that, participation in the governments of various parties. I might cite the example of Reynaud or of Lord Vansittart, whom I know well and who was in the English Foreign Office as an influential State Secretary under Conservative as well as Labour governments.

Q. But, after 30th June, 1934, and the bloody events of that time, why did you still remain in the Government? Why did you not resign at that time? You know that the prosecution has reproached other defendants with remaining in the Government under these circumstances.

A. Apart from the fact that from the description which Hitler gave of the events of the Roehm Putsch at that time I had to conclude that it had been a serious revolt; I have known a number of revolutions from my own experience, for example, the Russian revolution and, as I already said, the Fascist revolution in Rome, and I have seen that in such revolutions innocent people very often have to suffer. In addition I adapted myself entirely to Hindenburg's attitude; even if I wanted to resign he would never have let me do so.

As an illustration that I had to acknowledge the seriousness of this revolt and the truth of Hitler's description of it, I should like to mention briefly that on this day, 30th June, a brother of the Emperor of Japan was in Berlin and I had to invite him to dinner. General von Fritsch was also present at this dinner and a number of other high officers and officials of the Foreign Office. The prince did not make his appearance at the dinner, or rather, he came an hour late. When I asked for the reason I learned that my house had also been surrounded by the SA and the prince had been prevented by them from entering. A few days later General von Fritsch, after he had described the events on the military side, asked me whether I knew that he himself and I as well had been on Herr Roehm's list.

Thus this revolt was not quite as harmless as was described here, I believe, by the witness Gisevius.

[Page 108]

Q. Before you decided to enter the Hitler Cabinet did you talk to Hitler himself about the principles and the line of foreign policy which you intended to pursue?

A. Yes, in detail. I explained to him that only by way of negotiation and a policy conforming to the international situation could we achieve our ends. This would demand patience. Hitler also seemed to understand this at the time and I had the same impression during the following years, too. I am convinced that he at that time entirely approved the continuation of this policy and honestly meant it. He repeatedly emphasized that he knew what war was like and did not want to experience another one.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like once more to refer to the affidavit of Ambassador Pruefer, No. 4 in my Document Book I, and, with the permission of the Tribunal, I should like to quote the following:

"Neurath's policy was one of international understanding and peace." - That is Page 29 - "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, seeing that he wanted to bring this about exclusively by negotiation, in no case by force."
Then on the same page ...

THE PRESIDENT: Have you not read this already?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes. I want now to read a passage following this:

"I am certain that Freiherr von Neurath, as well as other career officials in the Foreign Office, had no concrete knowledge of any possible plans for violence on Hitler's part. On the contrary, during the first years after the change of government one generally lent credence to the oft-repeated declaration of peaceful intentions by the National Socialist leaders. I am even of the opinion that the latter themselves, during the first years, did not want to bring about a war. Rather it was believed, and hoped, in the highest circles of the Party, to which Neurath did not belong at all, that it would be possible to continue winning cheap laurels without war through the hitherto successfully practised tactics of bluff and sudden surprise. It was not until later that the megalomania arising from the belief in their own luck and their own infallibility and invincibility, which unlimited flattery had made almost mystical, led Hitler and his immediate entourage to include war among their instruments of political power. We, the officials of the Foreign Service, and with us Baron von Neurath, our chief, became aware of this development only gradually, as outsiders. Until about the beginning of 1936 only a very few officials had been admitted into the Party which, for its part, treated the staff of the office, including the recently admitted members, with suspicion and distrust."
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, is not this really all argument? You are reading at great length.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I have finished, Mr. President.


Q. Did you yourself see in the Party programme of the National Socialists any intention or desire to break with other powers?

A. No. Contrary to the allegations of the prosecution, which do not gain in truthfulness by repetition, I could not, even if I had wanted to, have seen any intention to resort to armed hostilities in the event of failure to reach our aims, and from Hitler's various statements I know that he himself at that time, that is, at the beginning of his term of government, had no such intentions. He wanted as close an understanding as possible with England and a stable, peaceful relationship with France which would remove the ancient enmity of the two peoples. The latter, he told me, was the special reason for his publicly declaring after the Saar plebiscite that he was renouncing once and for all any attempts to regain Alsace.

[Page 109]

Q. The prosecution charges in particular that from the following sentences of the Party programme you must have known that the Nazis were pursuing aggressive foreign political ends and that they thus were aiming at war from the very beginning. It reads:
"We demand the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany, on the basis of the right of nations to self- determination. We demand equal rights for the German people in respect to other nations, the repeal of the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germain."
Will you please comment on this?

A. Even today I cannot, even if I want to, see any aggressive spirit in these sentences which have just been quoted. The right of self-determination is a basic condition in the modern State, recognized by International Law. It was also the basis, theoretically at least, of the Treaty of Versailles, and on this basis the plebiscites were carried out in the border areas. The union of all Germans on the basis of this recognized principle was therefore an absolutely permissible political postulate as far as International Law and foreign policy are concerned.

The removal of the discriminative provisions of the Treaty of Versailles by changing its terms was the essential aim of German foreign policy, as well as of all governments which preceded the National Socialists, bourgeois and Social Democratic governments. I cannot see how one can deduce any aggressive intention if a people strives to free itself from the burdens of a treaty which it feels to be unjust, provided that this is done by peaceful means.

I should like to add that this was the foreign policy which I represented until the moment at the end of 1937 when I had to realize that Hitler also considered war as a means in his policy. Before, as stated above, there had never been any question of that.

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