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-Third Day: Tuesday, 25th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[Page 159]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, but I should like to point out one thing only: The Land Office, which was acting in the interests of National Socialism, was re-staffed by the witness with new personnel after a long struggle. I considered it important that this was worked out, too.

Mr. President, I should like to make one general remark. I said yesterday that my examination would last another hour. But yesterday, when I left the session, I found another document book to the Indictment which has forced me to deal in greater detail with individual questions here. And for this reason, a reason which I could not foresee, I will have to take additional time.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, the Tribunal has not taken up the question of time at the moment.

Why have you to go into some questions of - I do not know what the word is - "amt" - to do with agriculture? Why do you want to go into that? He, the defendant, said he had nothing to do with it.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, but in a way he was connected with it, Mr. President, in so far as these agricultural efforts were made through the Land Office.

THE PRESIDENT: If he was connected with it let him explain it. I thought he said the Party and the SS did it.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, but via the Land Office, he prevented this.


Q. Perhaps you can tell us briefly about this, Herr von Neurath.

[Constantin von Neurath] A. I believe, according to the statements of the President, that it is hardly necessary any more. As a matter of fact, I had no direct connection with the Bodenamt. I only succeeded in having removed a rather unpleasant leader of this office, who belonged to the SS.

Q. During your period of office as Reich Protector, was there any compulsory deportation of workers to the Reich?

A. No. In this connection I shall also be brief.

Compulsory labour did not exist at all while I was in the Protectorate. There was an emergency service law which was issued by the Protectorate Government and applied to younger men who were employed in urgently needed work in the public interest in the Protectorate. Compulsory deportations of workers to the Reich did not occur in my time.

On the contrary, many young people reported voluntarily for work in Germany, because labour conditions and wages were better in the Reich than in the Protectorate at that time.

[Page 160]

Q. How did your resignation from office - and this is my last question - your leaving your office as Reich Protector come about?

A. First of all, I should like to tell you why I remained as long as I did, in spite of all these occurrences and difficulties. The reason for it was that I was convinced, and I am still convinced today, that I had to stay as long as I could reconcile this with my conscience, in order to prevent this Protectorate, which was entrusted to Germany, from coming under the domination of the SS. Everything that happened after my departure in 1941 I had actually prevented through my presence, and even if my effectiveness was extremely limited, I believe that by remaining I not only did a service to my own country, but to the Czech people as well, and under the same circumstances I would not act differently even today.

Apart from this I believed that, in time of war especially, I should leave such a difficult and responsible office only in the case of the utmost necessity. The crew of a ship does not go below and fold their arms if the ship is in danger.

That I could not fully comply with the wishes of the Czechs is something that will be understood by all who have been active in politics in a practical, and not merely theoretical, way. I believe, then, that by my persevering in office, I prevented much of the misery which afflicted the Czech people after I left. This opinion was also shared by a large number of the Czech population, as I could gather from the numerous letters which were addressed to me by them later on.

A. And how did it happen that you left, that you resigned from your office?

Q. On 23rd September, 1941, I received a telephone call from Hitler asking me to come to headquarters immediately. There he told me that I was being too mild with the Czechs and that this state of affairs could not be continued. He told me that he had decided to adopt severe measures against the Czech resistance movement, and that for this purpose the notorious Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich would be sent to Prague. I did everything in my power to dissuade him from this, but was not successful. Thereupon I asked permission to resign, since I could never be responsible for any activity of Heydrich in Prague. Hitler refused my resignation, but permitted me to go on leave. I flew back to Prague, and on the following day I continued my journey home. At the same hour that I left Prague, Heydrich arrived.

I then wrote to Hitler from my home, and again asked to be allowed to resign immediately. In spite of the fact that I did not receive any answer, I again put in another request, and at the same time I explained that under no circumstances would I return to Prague, that I had dissolved my office and I refused to act as Reich Protector from now on. I was not officially relieved from my office until October, 1943.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to conclude my examination of the defendant with a brief quotation from the Czech Indictment.

THE PRESIDENT: Just one moment, was your going on leave, was that made public?


DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, I was just going to quote that, Mr. President. In the text of the Czech Indictment, it says:

"When at last in the second half of September the underground Czech revolt committees, with the help of the BBC, began a successful boycott campaign against the German-controlled Press, the German authorities seized the opportunity to aim a heavy blow at the Czech population. On 27th September, 1941, radio station Prague gave out the following report:
"Reich Minister Baron von Neurath, Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, has found it necessary to ask the Fuehrer for a long leave in order to restore his impaired health."
Then in conclusion it says:

[Page 161]

"Under these circumstances the Fuehrer agreed to the request of the Reich Protector and charged SS Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich with the direction of the office of Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia during the time of the illness of Reich Minister von Neurath."
With this my examination is ended, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: From September, 1941, until October, 1943, did you live on your own estates, or what?

THE WITNESS: Yes, Mr. President.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: My examination is over.

THE PRESIDENT: Any other ... yes, the Court will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

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

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (counsel for the defendant von Papen):

Q. Is it known to you that immediately after Germany left the League of Nations, von Papen followed Hitler to Munich to persuade him to remain in the League of Nations?

A. Yes, that is known to me. In fact, I myself induced him to do so.

Q. During the time he was Vice-Chancellor in 1933 and 1934, did von Papen protest in the Cabinet against unfriendly acts of the German policy towards Austria, as for instance the introduction of the 1,000-mark embargo?

A. Yes, that line was continuously followed by him and by other Ministers, and naturally by myself, too.

Q. Did Hitler mention to you that this attitude of Papen's in the Austrian problem induced him to transfer the mission in Vienna to Papen after the murder of Dollfuss?

A. Yes, Hitler did speak about that.

Q. Did Hitler discuss with you the reasons why he addressed the letter of 26th July, 1934, to Papen, announcing that Papen would be sent to Austria?

A. Yes, but the way it happened was as follows: When Hitler told me about his intention to send Papen to Vienna, I reminded him that to make it possible for him to exert any influence, he should first of all, after the events of 30th June, clear up the relationship between himself - Hitler - and Papen, and clear it up publicly. This letter, which was read here in Court, can be traced back to that.

Q. In 1937 you paid a visit to the Austrian Government, which led to demonstrations. Were you and von Papen surprised by these demonstrations, and did you sympathise with them?

A. The demonstrations were a complete surprise to me, especially because of their tremendous size. They certainly did not please me, because they cast a certain shadow on the discussions between Herr von Schuschnigg and myself.

Q. Then, the last question: before Schleicher's Government was formed, there was a meeting of the Cabinet on 2nd December, 1932. On the previous day, Papen had been given orders by Hindenburg to send the Parliament on leave and to form a new government. Is it correct that Papen reported on this matter to the Cabinet and that Schleicher, as Minister for the Armed Forces, made a statement to the effect that this would lead to civil war, and that the armed forces were too weak to oppose such a war?

A. Yes, I remember this occurrence very accurately. We were all somewhat surprised at Schleicher's statement. However, it was so well founded that we had to accept it as true.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

(No response.)

Does the prosecution?

[Page 162]

CROSS-EXAMINATION of the defendant von Neurath.


Q. At the time about which Dr. Kubuschok has just been asking you, in the second half of 1932, did you know that President von Hindenburg, the defendant von Papen, and General von Schleicher were discussing and considering very hard what would be the best method of dealing with the Nazi Party?

A. No. As I have already testified, I had no connection in that respect. I knew absolutely nothing about all these negotiations.

Q. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting you were in the negotiations, but did you not know that the problem as to how to deal with the Nazi Party was exercising the minds of the President, and the defendant von Papen and General von Schleicher; it was a very urgent problem in their minds?

A. Yes, I knew that.

Q. And again, do you not think, defendant, I am suggesting that you were in the negotiations. You may take it - well, I will make all the suggestions perfectly clear.

You knew that, in the end, the method which commended itself to President von Hindenburg, to the defendant von Papen, and to General von Schleicher was that there should be a government with Hitler as Chancellor, but well brigaded by conservative elements, in harness with conservative elements; that was the plan that was ultimately resolved on? You knew that much, I suppose, did you not?

A. Yes, but the plan was not quite like that. At that time, the time you are talking about, there was only mention of the fact that we were obliged to bring the Nazi Party into the Government.

Q. But eventually, when the Nazi Party came in, on 30th January, 1933, the plan was that it would be well harnessed to conservative elements. That was the idea in President von Hindenburg's mind, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were one of the conservative and stable elements, if I understand you rightly, is that not so?

A. Yes. It has been explained here that it was the special wish of President von Hindenburg that I should remain in the Government.

Q. In order to keep Hitler's Government peace-loving and respectable. Is that a fair way of putting it?

A. Yes, so as to prevent revolutionary movements in general headed by Hitler from exercising their methods too much within the Government, too.

Q. And, defendant, you have told us that up to this time you had been a diplomatist. When you became a Minister, did you not think that you had some responsibility for keeping the Government respectable and peace-loving as a Minister of the Reich?

A. To be sure, but the question was only how far my power to accomplish this extended.

Q. I do not want to go into the workings of your mind too much, I just want to get this clear. You realised that as a Foreign Minister, and as a well-known figure to all the Chancelleries of Europe, that your presence in the Government would be taken throughout Europe as a sign of your approval and your responsibility for what the Government did, did you not?

A. I doubt that very much. Perhaps one might have hoped so.

Q. Well, now, just let us consider it. Is it your case that up to November of 1937 you were perfectly satisfied with the peace-loving intentions and respectability of the Government?

A. I was convinced of the peaceful intentions of the Government. I have already stated that. Whether I was satisfied with the methods -

[Page 163]

Q. What about respectability? By "respectability," I mean the general standard of decency that is required by any government, under which its people are going to be reasonably happy and contented. Were you satisfied with that?

A. I was by no means in agreement with the methods, above all, in connection with the domestic policy.

Q. Well, I would just like to look at that for a moment. Did you know about the "Brown Terror" in March of 1933, some six weeks after the Government was formed?

A. I only knew of the boycott against the Jews, nothing else.

Q. Do you remember the affidavit that has been put in evidence here, made by the American Consul, Mr. Geist, document 1759-PS, USA 420?

A. May I see it?

Q. Well, just let me remind you. It is a long affidavit, and there are only one or two parts I want to put to you.

Mr. Geist gives detailed particulars of the bad treatment, the beating, and assaulting, and insulting, and so on of Jews, as early as March, 1933. Did you know about that?

A. I knew of these occurrences; I do not recognize this affidavit, I have not seen it, but I do know about the occurrences from complaints made by foreign diplomatic representatives. According to them ... and as concerns my attitude to these events, I repeatedly applied to Hitler and urgently implored him to have them stopped. But I do not know anything more about the details.

Q. Just leaving that affidavit for the moment, as Foreign Minister you would receive ... you did receive, did you not, a synopsis or account of what was appearing in the foreign Press?

A. Yes, that I did, but whether I received all of those things I do not know.

Q. Just let me take an example. You had been Ambassador at the Court of St. James's from 1930 to 1932, if my recollection is right, had you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you realised - whether you agreed with what was in them or not - that the London Times and the Manchester Guardian were newspapers that had a great deal of influence in England, did you not?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. Did you know that in April, 1933, both these newspapers were full of the most terrible stories of the ill-treatment of Jews, Social Democrats, and Communists in Germany?

A. Yes, that is quite possible. I cannot remember it any more now, but those were certainly the very cases which I brought up before Hitler, drawing his attention to the effect that this was having abroad.

Q. Well, I just want to consider the extent of the allegations of these papers. As early as 12th April, 1933, the Manchester Guardian was saying:

"The inquirer by digging only an inch below the surface, which to the casual observer may seem tranquil enough, will, in city after city, village after village, discover such an abundance of barbarism committed by the Brown Shirts that modern analogies fail."

Describing them as an "instrument of a terror that although wanton is systematic - wanton in the sense that unlike a revolutionary terror it is imposed by no outward necessity, and systematic in the sense that it is an organic part of the Hitler regime."

Did you know that this and similar quotations were appearing in responsible British papers?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, that is D-911, which is the collection of extracts, and, with Mr. Wurms's affidavit, will be Exhibit GB 512.

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