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 7 of 8)

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

[Page 141]


Q. Now, first of all, I should like to refer to individual police measures for which you have been held responsible to a greater or lesser degree by the prosecution. Were there many arrests of Czechoslovak nationals already in the summer of 1939?

A. No; the activity of the police in the summer of 1939 was slight, and I hoped that it would be possible to restrict these police measures.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The Czechoslovak Indictment, under USSR 60, in Appendix No. 6, Supplement I, submits a proclamation which you, as Reich Protector, issued in August, 1939, that is, just prior to the outbreak of the war. This is a proclamation which was to serve as a warning to the people of the Protectorate against acts of sabotage. I shall have this proclamation submitted to you at this point.

I should like you to comment on it. This appendix is attached to the Document USSR 60 as Appendix I. The proclamation, which I have just given to the defendant, reads as follows - if I may, with the permission of the Tribunal, read the most important part:

"Each act of sabotage against the interests of the Greater German Reich, against German administration in the Protectorate, and against the German Wehrmacht will be prosecuted with unrelenting harshness, and will be punished most severely. By sabotage, as described in Paragraph I, are meant all disturbances of the public and economic life, particularly the damaging of essential installations such as railways, telephones, and so forth, lines of communication, water works, electricity works, gas works, and factories, as well as the hoarding of consumer goods, raising of prices, and the spreading of spoken or written rumours.

3. The population must observe all special directives of the authorities of the Reich working in the Protectorate such as have been published or such as will be published in the future. Refusal to obey or acting against any Reich authority will be considered as sabotage and punished accordingly. Responsibility for all acts of sabotage will be placed not only on the person who is committing the act, but rather on the entire Czechoslovak population.

I expect under all circumstances that the Czechoslovak population, through a loyal, peaceful, and quiet demeanour, will prove themselves worthy of the autonomy which the Fuehrer has guaranteed to the countries of Bohemia and Moravia."


Q. Will you please comment on this?

A. I cannot imagine from what point of view the issue of this public warning against sabotage can be used as the basis of an accusation against me. At this period of the greatest political tension, it was to be feared that radical elements would exploit the situation in order to commit acts of sabotage which could damage public services. In my opinion, this would not have been tolerated in any State at such a time without severe punishment. Through this warning we wanted to try to eliminate all incentives for committing acts of sabotage. Moreover, as far as I recall, this warning had the desired effect and practically no acts of sabotage actually took place. Besides, the threat of special punishment is not contained in this warning at all but it refers only to provisions for severe punishment which already existed.

Q. Shortly after the publication of this proclamation, the war broke out. What was your attitude toward this war?

A. I considered this war the greatest piece of stupidity, for on the basis of my knowledge of British psychology and politics, I was convinced that England would keep her promise to Poland, and that therewith the war against England and France would also commence, in which the United States, with its tremendous production capacity, would stand behind these powers. That was clear to me from all the statements made by President Roosevelt before the beginning of the

[Page 142]

war. I also rejected and condemned the rather reckless beginning of this war, because of my ethical convictions and my ideology.

For what reasons did you remain in your office instead of resigning?

A. I told myself that during the war, on the one hand, the Czechs would try - if not to throw off German rule, then at least to disturb, either openly or secretly, through uprisings, sabotage, etc., the military measures of the German Wehrmacht which were taken in the Protectorate and that, on the other hand, due to this, the severest measures would be taken against the population on the part of Germany, and this would cause the police - above all, the Gestapo - to proceed with all kinds of terroristic acts. Through my remaining in office, I wanted to prevent both of these things and I also wanted to prevent a more strict treatment of the Czech population, by the policy of conciliation and compromise which I followed.

To resign at a moment like that would have been desertion. But, on the other hand, I believed that in a war in which the existence of the German people was at stake I could not, as a German - which I am, with fervent love - refuse my services and my knowledge. After all, it was not a question of Hitler or the Nazi regime but rather of my people and their existence.

Q. Therefore, by remaining in office, you did not wish to indicate your approval of this war, which was brought about by Hitler?

A. Never. For it was an accomplished fact, to which I had not contributed, and I told Hitler my attitude and my opinion about the madness of the war quite clearly. But as long as I could, even in a restricted way, carry out the difficult task which I had undertaken for the benefit and the welfare of both peoples, I would have considered myself a traitor to both the Germans and the Czechs if, in their hour of need, I had abandoned the struggle. I do not believe that any decent person would have acted differently, for, above all, and beyond personal wishes, there is one's duty to one's own people.

Q. On the day of the outbreak of the war, in the Protectorate as well as everywhere in the Reich, so-called preventive measures were taken in the form of numerous arrests, at any rate more than a thousand, especially of representatives of the intelligentsia in so far as they were considered politically unreliable.

Were you advised of these arrests in advance, according to Paragraph 11 of the order of 1st September, 1939, which has been quoted earlier?

A. No, not even afterwards. I learned of these arrests through President Hacha.

Q. What did you have done then?

A. First of all, I summoned Frank and remonstrated with him. He said that he had not been informed either, and that this was a general police preventive measure.

Q. Which came directly from Berlin?

A. Yes, which Himmler had ordered the Gestapo and SD to take.

Q. Did you now try to have released the people who had been arrested, and who had for the most part been taken into the Reich?

A. Yes. I constantly brought pressure to bear on Frank, and on Himmler and Heydrich in Berlin, to that end.

Q. And how successful were your efforts?

A. Hundreds of these people who had been arrested, whose names I had to get from the Czechs with great difficulty as the German police refused to give me them, were released in the course of time.

Q. On 28th October, 1939, in Prague, public demonstrations occurred for the first time on the occasion of the Czech Independence Day. On this occasion, some of the demonstrators and some policemen were either killed or injured, for the police took rather strong measures against the demonstrants.

Regarding these police measures before, during and after this demonstration, had you any knowledge of them and did you endorse them?

A. At that time I was not in Prague, and only on 29th October did Frank inform me over the telephone about the unrest. The details I did not learn

[Page 143]

until I returned on 30th or 31st October. I told Frank that, through his personal interference on the street and through the use of the SS, he had intensified the tumult instead of leaving the restoration of order to the Czech police.

Q. Frank sent a report, dealing with these cases of unrest, to Berlin, which he mentioned when he was interrogated by the Czech delegation.

I have submitted an excerpt from the record of this interrogation which will be found in my Document Book 5 under No. 152. I should like to quote a few sentences from this report:

"This was the first time that the population demonstrated publicly, and that these slogans that were mentioned earlier were heard in the open. This matter was therefore taken seriously, and I personally reported to Berlin about all incidents. I should like to say that I was an eye-witness to these demonstrations and that I had the impression that they were of a dangerous nature. In the report which I sent to Berlin I stated specifically that these were the first demonstrations, and that, therefore, special importance was to be attached to them since they took place in the open street. I asked for directives, and I received these immediately from the Fuehrer's Headquarters. They were sent from Berlin direct to the Security Police and I received knowledge of their contents. The entire programme was carried through directly by the police."
Had you any knowledge of this report of Frank's, and the measures which are mentioned therein, before it was sent off or afterwards?

A. No. This report was completely unknown to me up till now in Nuremberg; but Frank always reported directly to Berlin. Apart from that, I was never of the opinion that this demonstration, which was carried on mostly by young people, should be considered especially important or that it should necessitate special police measures.

Q. At the funeral on 15th November of one of the students who was killed on 28th October there were new demonstrations in Prague, in the course of which numerous students were shot, others were arrested, and the universities were closed. What do you know about these incidents?

A. When this student, Publital, who was injured in this fracas, died of his wounds, the police, in order to prevent new demonstrations, prohibited the participation of students at the funeral, which was to take place on 15th November. Despite this, crowds collected, and when the police attempted to disperse them, renewed demonstrations and shootings resulted. When this was reported to Hitler by Frank, Hitler was greatly enraged and called me, Frank, and the military plenipotentiary, General Frederici, to a conference to be held in Berlin. Hitler had also asked the former Czech Ambassador, Chvalkovsky, to be present at this conference. Hitler was in a rage. I tried to calm him but despite that he made serious charges against the Czech Ambassador and gave him instructions to tell the Czech Government that if such events were repeated he would take the most severe measures against the people who were disturbing the peace and, furthermore, that he would hold the entire Czech Government liable to arrest. The language used by Hitler was quite uncontrolled and the proceeding was extremely distressing to us who were listening. After the Czech Ambassador had left, we stayed with Hitler for a few minutes longer. He asked me how long I would remain in Berlin and I told him one to two days. Then we were asked to dinner, but there was no further discussion about these incidents. Hitler asked State Secretary Frank to come back later. Hitler said no word about the shooting of the leaders of the demonstration or taking the students to concentration camps; neither did he mention the closing of the universities.

When, towards evening, I asked about the pilot of my aeroplane in order to give him instructions, I was told at the airport that he had flown back to Prague in my aeroplane together with Frank. The following day I returned to Prague by train and only then did I learn that Hitler had decreed the closing of all Czech universities for three years, the arrest of perhaps twelve hundred students and

[Page 144]

their transfer to a concentration camp, as well as the shooting of the ringleaders of the demonstration. At the same time a proclamation, which was signed with my name, was submitted to me in which these orders were announced which had been published in the Press and had been posted publicly. I had Frank summoned immediately and I accused him of these unheard-of things which had taken place without my knowledge. He referred to a specific decree of Hitler. I had not even seen this proclamation. My name had been affixed to it illegally by Frank. Even as my deputy, he was not justified in doing this; but later, through an official in my office, I learned that Frank often misused my name in this way. If I had had any advance knowledge of these decrees of Hitler - and, of course, he had the opportunity to reach me by telephone in Berlin - I would, naturally, have objected to them and at that time would have asked to be allowed to resign.

Immediately I tried to have these students released. I talked with Hitler personally, and also with Himmler, and gradually most of them were released, I believe more than eight hundred in all, and the last of their number was released in the summer of 1941.

Shortly after this incident, when I was again present in Berlin, I complained bitterly to Hitler about his demeanour towards me. He evaded an answer, so far as I recall, but he promised me that the students would be released very soon and that the Czech universities would be reopened after one year. Neither of these promises was kept by him.

Q. I should like to read to you the answer of the Legation Counsellor von Holleben, who at that time participated in the Protectorate Government, to Question 21 of his interrogatory of 18th May, 1946. This interrogatory may be found under No. 158 in my Document Book 5. The answer of Herr von Holleben reads as follows:

"The student riots of October and November, 1939, were a turning-point in the history of the Protectorate. I cannot give you a chronological repetition of the events from memory. However, I can state the following: The demonstrations which took place on 28th October, 1939, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the constitution of the Czechoslovak State in Prague and Brunn, mainly by the academic youth, were foreseen. Therefore, Herr von Neurath, before that anniversary date, issued the order to ignore them as far as possible and only to interfere when they assumed the character of a serious danger to public peace and security. Because of the disregard of this order the greater part, if not the whole of this misery resulted. Immediately after the conference with Hitler, Frank returned to Prague. The office of the Reich Protector, who himself was still in Berlin, received knowledge of the measures taken against the students on 15th and 16th November, only on the following morning, partly through the numerous appeals which the members of the families of the arrested students made at the office of Herr von Neurath. In my opinion, Herr von Neurath did not learn of these measures against students until after they had taken place. I personally did not report on this matter to him, and I cannot tell you just who did report to von Neurath on this matter. It is my firm conviction that the proclamation in question, addressed to the Czech people, was given out without the knowledge of Herr von Neurath, and through misuse of his name. I remember distinctly that because of this he frequently had heated arguments with Frank. At that time he remained in office, for he believed that by so doing he could prevent much more disaster. He considered the closing of the universities an irresponsible intervention in the life of the Czech people. He tried, with all the means at his disposal, to have the Czech university teachers and students who had been taken into German concentration camps released subsequently, and until such release, to have them accommodated in special sections."
In this connection, I should also like to submit to the Tribunal an affidavit which I received a few days ago from the secretary of Herr von Neurath at that

[Page 145]

time, Fraulein Irene Friedrich. This is dated 6th June, 1946, and from it we can see quite clearly that at the time this announcement was issued and published, Herr von Neurath had not yet returned from Berlin, and therefore that it was quite impossible for him to have known of this proclamation.

I should like to ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of this affidavit.

I should also like to refer -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): What is the number of the affidavit?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: N0. 159, Mr. President.

I should like to refer further to a document of the Czech prosecution: Appendix 5 of Supplement I, a memorandum of Herr von Neurath dated 26th March, 1946, which has been submitted. This deals with the discussion with President Hacha regarding the arrested students and also shows that Herr von Neurath tried and kept on trying to have these students released.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you give us the number for that? You said Document Book 5.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No, that is attached to the Czech report, USSR 60, and is not in my document book. I was only referring to that.


Q. Apart from these two actions which were decreed by Hitler personally, did other arrests take place on a rather large scale during the time of your office?

A. No, but single instances of arrest did take place recurrently, and I continually intervened anew to have them investigated and perhaps rescinded, at the suggestion of the Czech Government and private people.

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