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-Second Day: Monday, 24th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 8)

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

[Page 123]


Q. Herr von Neurath, just before the recess I confronted you with a quotation from your speech of 29th August, 1937, and I asked you whether you wished to make any statement.

A. I should think this statement shows exactly the opposite of what the prosecution is trying to establish. The peaceful character of my speech could hardly have been brought out in a more convincing way.

[Page 124]

Q. The prosecution adduces further, as proof for its assertion that your whole policy could be summarised as the breaking of a treaty, the following sentences in a speech made by you to the Academy for German Law on 30th October, 1937, when you said:
"In recognition of these elementary facts, the Reich Cabinet has always interceded in favour of treating every concrete international problem within the scope of methods especially suited to it; not to complicate it unnecessarily by involvement with other problems; and, as long as problems between only two powers are concerned, to choose the direct way for an immediate understanding between these two powers. We are in a position to state that this method has fully proved itself good, not only in the German interest, but also in the general interest."
What is your comment on this?

A. First of all this quotation is torn completely from its context. The entire speech was a presentation of the reasons why I - that is, Germany's policy - considered the conclusion of bilateral agreements to work better in the interests of peace than the so-called collective agreements, and only from this angle can the passage just quoted be understood. Therefore, I would ask that you quote the passage with its context.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: This speech of Herr von Neurath on the League of Nations and International Law, which he delivered on 30th October, 1937, before the Academy of German Law, will be found under No. 128 of my Document Book 4. With the permission of the Tribunal I should like to quote this particular passage in its entirety and we shall see that the passage selected by the prosecution has not the meaning which it has given it. It says here:

"I am convinced that the same or similar considerations will also arise in other cases where it is intended to set up a general structure, such as an absolutely mutual system of assistance for a more or less large group of States. Such projects, even in favourable cases, namely, when intended to be an equal guarantee by all participants, will only remain as a piece of paper - "
THE PRESIDENT: Is it not sufficient to refer to the document? The defendant has just said that the speech contained the reasons why he considered bilateral rather than general agreements possible. He said that. The document appears to confirm that. Could you not refer to the document without reading the words?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I read it because it was torn from its context and I believed that I would be permitted to quote the context as well. However, if the Tribunal wish to read the matter I shall not continue quoting it.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not seem to me to add to it. It is just the words which the defendant has quoted the substance of.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I omitted one sentence as I thought it was superfluous. But it may be seen from the context. If the Tribunal prefers to read the entire speech with reference to my quotations, then, of course, I shall be satisfied.


Q. Herr von Neurath, the prosecution has submitted Document L-150, Exhibit USA 65, a note of Mr. Bullitt, who was American Ambassador in Paris at that time, regarding a discussion he had with you in May, 1936, and the prosecution adduced on Page 8 of the English trial brief that as Foreign Minister you participated in the planning of aggressive war against Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Will you please comment on this document, which is known to you, and this accusation which is levelled against you?

A. First the occupation of the Rhineland had naturally created unrest in the Cabinets and public opinion and among the signatory Powers of the Treaty of

[Page 125]

Versailles. This applied especially to France and Czechoslovakia. Therefore it was essential, if a reasonable German foreign policy were to be conducted, to allow this unrest to die down, so as to convince the world that Germany was not pursuing aggressive plans, but only wanted to restore full sovereignty in the Reich. The erection of fortifications was to serve only to lessen the temptation of our heavily armed neighbours to march at any time they saw fit into German territory which was unprotected. Despite all the negotiations and efforts, it had not been possible to get them to observe the disarmament clause in the Treaty of Versailles.

As I have already said, France and Czechoslovakia especially, instead of disarming, continued to arm, and by concluding agreements with Soviet Russia they increased their military superiority.

In my discussion with Mr. Bullitt I attempted to bring all this out when I said that we would not start any further diplomatic actions for the time being. By making any military attack more difficult I hoped to get France and Czechoslovakia to change their policy, which was hostile to Germany, and to create better relations with both these countries in the interests of peace. These hopes and views which I held can be seen clearly in the last part of Mr. Bullitt's report - and with this Mr. Bullitt was in full agreement.

As to the remark about British policy on Page 2, paragraph 2 of this report, Great Britain was trying at that time to prevent a rapprochement between Germany and Italy with whom her relations were strained to breaking-point because of the Abyssinian question.

The Foreign Office thought the rapprochement could be prevented by making it known that it would no longer oppose the Anschluss between Germany and Austria. At that time Mussolini was still entirely opposed to the Anschluss. The realization of this specious intention on the part of Britain was one of the motives for the conclusion of the German-Austrian Agreement of 11th July, 1936. The British statement which I had hinted at and expected was forthcoming in November, 1937, on the occasion of the visit of Lord Halifax to Berlin. Lord Halifax told me at that time - and I took care to make a note of his statement, which I quote in English word for word:

"People in England would never understand why they should go to war only because two German countries wish to unite."
But at the same time, the Foreign Office, in a directive to the British Ambassador in Vienna, the wording of which is now well known, called upon the Austrian Government to offer stubborn resistance to the Anschluss, and promised every support.

The Bullitt report also shows that I said that Hitler's greatest wish was a real understanding with France. Apart from that I also told Mr. Bullitt - and he himself states that right from the beginning - that the German Government would do everything to prevent an uprising of the National Socialists in Austria.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I ask the Tribunal to take special notice of these notes of Mr. Bullitt, which are submitted as No. 15 in my document book, Page 60, the last sentence, so that we can save time by not quoting this paragraph. This is Document Book 1, Neurath Document No. 15, Page 60, last paragraph.


Q. What was your own personal attitude and opinion about the policy to be pursued by Germany with reference to Czechoslovakia?

A. Czech policy towards us was always characterised by a profound mistrust. This was to be explained partly by the geographical position of the country, between Germany and Austria, and partly by the diversity of nationalities within the country. These were swayed by strong feelings. The country being drawn into the French-Russian military and friendly alliance did not contribute to the creation of closer relations between Germany and Czechoslovakia.

As Reich Foreign Minister, I always worked to improve the political relations. I also tried to strengthen our economic connections which were of manifest

[Page 126]

importance. In so doing, I no more thought of using force, or of military occupation, than I did in our relations with all the other neighbouring States.

What was your attitude to the Sudeten German question?

A. I have to be a little more explicit in this case.

The Germans living in the Sudetenland as a compact group had been given the assurance at the peace negotiations in 1919, when they were attached to the Czechoslovak State, that they would be given autonomy on the model of the Swiss Confederation, and as expressly stated by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons in 1920. The Sudeten German delegation at that time, as well as Austria, had demanded an Anschluss with the Reich.

The promise of autonomy was not kept by the Czech Government. Instead of autonomy, there was a vehement policy of Czechification. The Germans were forbidden to use their own German language in the courts, as well as in their dealings with administrative authorities, etc., under threat of punishment.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, cannot the defendant go on to the time with which we have to deal, namely, 1938, and tell us what his policy was then, without telling us all these facts beforehand about 1919?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I just wanted to show the background for his later policy. However, if the Tribunal thinks that this is unnecessary, because it is well known, then I shall be satisfied with the testimony which has already been given.


Herr von Neurath, what were your official and personal relations with Hitler during your time as Foreign Minister?

A. From the personal point of view, I had no close connection of any kind with Hitler. I did not belong to his close circle either. In the beginning, I had frequent discussions with him concerning foreign policy, and, on the whole, he was open to my arguments. However, in the course of time, this changed when other organizations, especially the Party, began to concern themselves with foreign policy, and came to Hitler with their plans and their ideas. This applied especially to the so-called Ribbentrop Bureau. Ribbentrop became more and more a personal adviser of Hitler in matters of foreign policy and gained more and more influence. It was often difficult to dissuade Hitler from proposals which had been submitted to him through these channels. German foreign policy was to a certain extent going two different ways. Not only in Berlin, but also in the offices abroad, the Foreign Office had constantly to contend with difficulties caused by the working methods and the sources of information of this Ribbentrop Bureau. I personally was always opposed to the Party exercising any influence on foreign policy. I was especially opposed to Ribbentrop's direct handling of important questions and his official interference in matters of foreign policy in cases where they had not been taken out of my control. For that reason I handed in my resignation several times, and for a time I succeeded in getting Hitler to dispense with Ribbentrop's meddlesome methods which he had hitherto supported.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, I should like to submit and have the Tribunal take judicial notice of an extract from an article in the American newspaper Time, dated 10th April, 1933, No. 9 of my Document Book 1, Page 44. I should also like to refer -

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not think that mere newspaper reports or comments are in the nature of evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In addition, I have submitted in the same Document Book 1, under No. 17, an extract from the well- known book by Henderson, the former British Ambassador in Berlin, Failure of a Mission, and I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of it, so that I shall not have to read it, paying especial attention to paragraph 2, Page 69.

[Page 127]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal rules that this document - the article from Time - may be admitted, but it is not necessary to refer to it.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Thank you. This is Document 9, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know it is Document 9. I say it may be admitted.


Finally, I should like to submit and call the attention of the Tribunal to Document 16, which is a communication addressed by defendant von Neurath to Hitler, dated 27th July, 1936, requesting to be relieved of his post, because of the intended appointment of Herr von Ribbentrop as State Secretary. It is not necessary to read this document, but I should like to call the Tribunal's attention not only to the contents, but also to the mode of address and the ending. Hitler is addressed only as "Esteemed Reich Chancellor," and the ending is, "Yours very respectfully" ("Ihr sehr ergebener").

I mention this because the prosecution has often made the accusation that in addressing letters to Hitler flowery phrases were used which exceeded ordinary courtesy. Herr von Neurath never used these fine words.

I also call your attention to Document 14, which is to be found in my Document Book 1. That is also an attempt to resign, dated 25th October, 1935, and I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of this document as well.


Q. Herr von Neurath, apart from your official policy, were there not other offices which undertook independent action, which signed treaties, in which you had no part?

A. Yes. That was the case, for instance, when the so-called Berlin-Rome-Tokyo policy was under consideration. Hitler pursued this plan stubbornly, and Ribbentrop supported him. I rejected this policy, as I considered it harmful, and in some way fantastic, and I refused to allow my staff to carry it through. Ribbentrop, therefore, in his capacity as Ambassador with a special mission, carried on these negotiations independently, and, on Hitler's instructions, concluded the so-called Anti-Comintern Pact. Hence this pact bore Ribbentrop's signature and not my own, even though I was still Foreign Minister at that time, and in the ordinary way I would have had to sign it.

Q. We now come to the change in policy. Herr von Neurath, when did you realize that Hitler's foreign policy plans, above all the achieving of equal rights for Germany, went beyond peaceful means, and that the conduct of war and the use of violence began to be considered as a possibility.

A. I realised it for the first time when I heard Hitler's speech to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht on 5th November, 1937, which has been mentioned here frequently, and at which I was present. The notes on the contents of this speech, as we have seen from the Hoszbach minutes, were made from memory five days later, and were extracts from the speech which lasted two to three hours.

Although the plans set forth by Hitler in that long speech had no concrete form, and various possibilities were envisaged, it was quite obvious to me that their whole tendency was of an aggressive nature. I was extremely upset at Hitler's speech, because it knocked the bottom out of the whole foreign policy which I had consistently pursued - the policy of using only peaceful means. It was evident that I could not assume responsibility for such a policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In connection with this I should like to refer to the affidavit of Baroness Ritter, already mentioned by me, which is No. 3 in Document Book 1. From this affidavit I should like to quote a paragraph under No. 17 of my document book, a paragraph which seems to me to be so important that I should like to ask the Tribunal to grant me permission to quote it. It runs as follows:

[Page 128]

"When for the first time Herr von Neurath recognized, from Hitler's statement on 5th November, 1937, that the latter wanted to achieve his political aims by the use of force towards the neighbouring States, he was so severely shaken that he suffered several heart attacks.

He discussed this with us in detail on the occasion of his visit on New Year's Day, 1938, and we saw that it had affected him both physically and spiritually. Above all, he was very upset because, meanwhile, Hitler had refused to receive him, and in these circumstances he could not see how Hitler could be dissuaded from his plans, which he severely condemned. He often said, 'It is horrible to play the part of Cassandra.' He categorically declared that on no account could he support this policy, and would take the consequences. He did not falter in this decision when on 2nd February, 1938, on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, Hitler told him that he could not do without him as Foreign Minister. He told us about this the same evening in a telephone conversation when we sent him birthday greetings."

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