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 4 of 11)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Constantin von Neurath]

[Page 163]


Q. Did you know that was the line that was being taken, that it was systematic in the sense of being an organic part of the Hitler regime?

[Page 164]

A. No, in that sense certainly not.

Q. Did you know that the British paper, the Manchester Guardian, was quoting:

"An eminent German conservative, who is in close touch with the Nationalist members of the German Government, and certainly more sympathetic to the right than to the left, has mentioned the number of victims as being as high as 20,000 in April"?
Did you know that the figure was being put so high?

A. No, and I do not believe it, either.

Q. Well, let us see what the German Press was saying.

On 24th April, 1933, The Times was quoting the Hamburger Fremdenblatt, which, in turn, was invoking official sources and stating that there were 18,000 Communists in prison in the Reich, and that the 10,000 prisoners in Prussia included many intellectuals and others.

Would the Hamburger Fremdenblatt have had a very long career as a newspaper if it had misquoted official sources under your Government in April, 1933, if it had misrepresented the position. It would not, would it?

A. That I do not know, but I do know that a lot of trouble is always being stirred up by means of figures.

Q. But defendant, here is a figure quoted, as far as I know, by a responsible Hamburg paper, as an official figure, re- quoted by the London Times, which is the leading paper in England. Was that not sufficiently serious for you to bring it up in the Cabinet?

A. I am very sorry, but with all respect to the papers - and even the London papers - they do not always tell the truth.

Q. No. That is a perfectly reasonable comment. Newspapers, like everyone else, are misinformed. But when you had a widespread account of terrible conditions, quoting large numbers, did you not, as one of the respectable elements in that Government, think that it was worthy of bringing it up in Cabinet and finding out whether it was true or not?

A. How do you know that I did not do that?

Q. That is what I am asking. Did you bring it up, and what was the result when you did?

A. I have already told you that I always remonstrated about these incidents, with Hitler - not in the Cabinet, but with Hitler.

Q. That is not what I asked you. You see, defendant, what I asked you was why you did not bring it up in the Cabinet. Here was a Cabinet established with conservative elements to keep it respectable. Why did you not bring it up in the Cabinet and try to get the support of Herr von Papen, Herr Hugenberg, and all the other conservative gentlemen in the Cabinet, of whom we have heard? Why did you not bring it up?

A. For the very simple reason that it seemed to be more effective to tell Hitler directly.

Q. In April, 1933, some two months after it was formed, are you telling the Tribunal that you did not think it was worth while to bring a matter up in the Reich Cabinet, that within two months of Hitler coming into power, it had become so "Fuehrer-principled" that you could not bring it up in the Cabinet?

A. I repeat, and after all, I am the only one in a position to judge, that I considered direct representations made to Hitler more effective.

Q. I see. Well, now, I just want I do not suppose you were interested, but did you know about the putting into concentration camps of any of the gentlemen that I mentioned to the defendant von Papen - Herr von Ossietzky or Herr Muehsam, or Dr. Hermann Drucker, or any of the other left- wing writers and lawyers and politicians? Did you know that they had gone to a concentration camp from which they never returned?

A. No.

Q. You did not know at all?

[Page 165]

A. No.

Q. At any rate, you knew, as your documents have shown, when you went to London in June, you knew very well how, at any rate, foreign opinion had crystallised against Germany because of the treatment of the Jews and the opposition parties. You knew that, did you not, when you went to the world economic conference in June?

A. Yes. That was mentioned by me in a report that was read in Court.

Q. Now you say that your reaction was to go to Hitler and protest. I just want to look at what the existing documents show that you did. Now, let us take April, first of all. Would you look at Document D-794?

(A document was handed to the witness.)

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, it is Document Book 12-A, Page 8. It will be Exhibit GB 513.


Q. Now, this is a letter from you to Hitler dated 2nd April, 1933:

"The Italian Ambassador telephoned me last night and informed me that Mussolini had declared himself prepared to deny, through the Italian delegations abroad, all news about the persecution of the Jews in Germany that had been distorted by propaganda, if we should consider this course useful. I thanked Herr Cerruti, also on your behalf, and told him that we would be glad to accept his offer.

I regard this friendly gesture of Mussolini's as important enough to bring it to your notice."

What did you think had been distorted by propaganda?

A. Yes, please read this part. Here it says: "the news had been distorted by propaganda" - that is what it is about.

Q. That is what I was so interested in, defendant. What did you think had been distorted, and how much knowledge had you, so that you could decide whether the news had been distorted or not?

A. That I really cannot tell you today.

Q. You knew that Jews had been beaten, killed, taken away from their families, and put into concentration camps, and that their property had been destroyed, and was beginning to be sold at under value. You knew that all these things were happening, did you not?

A. No, certainly not, at that time. That they were beaten, yes, that I had heard, but at that time no Jews were murdered or, perhaps, only once in one individual case.

Q. Well, you saw that The Times and the Manchester Guardian of that date gave the most circumstantial examples of typical murders of Jews? You must have seen that; you must have seen that the foreign Press was saying it. Why did you think that it was distorted? What inquiry did you make to discover whether it was distorted?

A. Who told me? Who informed me about murders being committed?

Q. I am putting it to you that it was the foreign Press. I have given you the two examples from the Press of my own country, and obviously from what Signor Mussolini was saying, it was in the Press of other countries. You must have known what they were saying. What inquiries did you make to find out whether it was true or not?

A. I used the only way possible for me, namely, through the police authorities concerned.

Q. Did you ask Himmler, or did you ask the defendant Goering?

A. Most certainly not.

Q. What? You did not ask Himmler? Did you not ask the defendant Goering? Why not? Why not? He was the head, inventing the Gestapo and the concentration camps at that time. He would have been a very good man to ask, would he not?

[Page 166]

A. The man who could have given me information was the chief, the supreme head of the police.

Q. Did you ask the defendant Frick?

A. I did not ask him personally.

Q. Now -

A. Certainly not personally.

Q. May I suggest to you that I do not want to take up time? Why did you not take the trouble to ask Goering or Frick or anyone who could have given you, as I suggest, proper information?

Would you look at Document 3893-PS?

(The document is handed to the defendant.)

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The Tribunal will find it at Page 128 of Document Book 12-A, my Lord; it will become Exhibit GB 514.


Q. This is the Volkischer Beobachter, quoting you on 17th September, 1933 on the Jewish question:

"The Minister had no doubt that the stupid talk abroad about purely internal German affairs, as for example the Jewish problem, would quickly be silenced if one realised that the necessary cleaning up of public life must temporarily entail individual cases of personal hardship, but that nevertheless it served to establish all the more firmly the authority of justice and law in Germany."
Was that your view in September, 1933, of the action against the Jews and against the left-wing sympathisers up to that time, that it was a "necessary cleaning up of public life," which would, of course, temporarily involve "individual cases" of hardship, and that it was necessary "more firmly" to establish " the authority of justice and law in Germany"? Was that your view?

A. I told you during - during my - I think it was the day before yesterday, in answer to the question of what my attitude was towards the Jewish problem - that in view of the domination of public life in Germany by Jews which occurred after the last war, I thought it absolutely right to have these things either eliminated or restricted. That is what I am referring to here.

Q. So that it is right - I mean, you are not running away from what you said on 17th September, 1933 - that you thought the treatment of the Jews in 1933 a "necessary cleaning up of public life" in Germany? Are we to take it that your view then is your view now, and you do not deviate from it at all? Is that right?

A. That is still my view today, only it should have been carried out by different methods.

Q. All right. Well, we will not go into discussions of it.

Am I to take it that you knew and approved of the breakdown of political opposition?

A. No, that is ...

Q. Well, then, let us take it by stages. Did you believe in the proscribing, the making illegal of the Communist Party?

A. In those days, most certainly, because you have heard, have you not, that we were facing civil war.

Q. Very well. You agreed with that. Did you agree with the breaking down and making illegal of the trade unions?

A. No.

Q. What did you do to protest against the breaking down of the trade unions?

A. That was in a sphere ... this sphere did not concern me at all. I was Foreign Minister, and not Minister of the Interior.

Q. I see. Well, again I am not going to argue with you. You thought it was perfectly right as Foreign Minister to remain and give your support and authority to a government which was doing something of which you disapproved, like breaking down the trade union movement. Is that how we are to take it?

[Page 167]

A. Yes. Did you ever hear that a Minister ...

Q. Now what about ...

A. I would like to say, did you ever hear that every Cabinet Minister must leave the Cabinet if he does not agree with one particular thing?

Q. Every Cabinet Minister for whom I have any respect would leave a Cabinet if it did something of which he morally disapproved, and I understood from you that you morally disapproved of the breaking down of the trade union movement. If I am wrong, correct it. If you did not disapprove, say so.

A. I did not think that it was immoral. It was a political measure, but not an immoral one.

Q. Then let us take the Social Democratic Party, that was a party which had taken a great share in the government of Germany and of Prussia for the years since the war. Did you think it right, morally right, to make that party illegal and unable to take any further share in the carrying on of the country?

A. No, certainly not. But I do not at all know ...

Q. Let us get it clear. Did you think it right or not?

A. I just told you no, but I do not at all know whether you ...

Q. What did you do to protest against that; what did you do to protest against the dissolution of the Social Democratic Party?

A. The most I could do against this dissolution was to state my objections.

Q. To whom did you state your objection against the dissolution of the Social Democratic Party?

A. To Hitler, again and again.

Q. Again and again you stated your objection to the dissolution of the parties, the opposition parties? But you never raised that in the Cabinet; that is right, is it not?

A. I cannot remember whether this question was discussed in the Cabinet; I do not know any more.

Q. I see. All right. Let us just pass to another aspect and still on 1933. I just want you to have in mind what was happening in 1933. Did you know that after you had announced that Germany was leaving the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations, orders had been got out for military preparations to deal with the possibility of war, as a consequence of that action?

A. No. In 1932 - 1933, I knew nothing about it.

Q. Yes, in 1933, 25th October, 1933, as is shown in Document C-40, Exhibit USA 51. Now, defendant, you were then Foreign Minister. Are you telling the Tribunal that neither Hitler nor Marshal von Blomberg - I think he was Reichswehr Minister - that neither told you, as a result of this action, "we shall have to have the preparations ready in case sanctions, including military sanctions, are imposed on Germany." Did neither of them tell you that that was to be the result of your move in foreign policy?

A. No, nor was there any action to be feared.

Q. I see. Well, now it is rather ... You will agree with me, it is rather odd not to inform the Foreign Minister of the possible consequences of his policy or the military preparations being taken to deal with it; it is rather odd, is it not, in any system of government, totalitarian, democratic, or anything you like, it is rather odd not to tell the Foreign Minister what is being done in the way of military preparations to deal with his policy, is it not?

A. I certainly had to form an opinion as to whether any danger threatened from our withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference, that is, I had to decide whether this was likely to have any consequences. The military had their own opinion presumably, but I do not know, or at any rate, I was not informed; I assume, however, that there were certain discussions amongst the General Staff.

Q. Well, now, I just want to sum up for 1933, and I want to do that quickly. May I take it that up to the end of 1933, despite these matters which I have put

[Page 168]

to you, you were perfectly satisfied with the respectability and peace-loving intentions of the government; is that right?

A. Yes.

Well, now, just let us turn to 1934. You remember your conversation wit Mr. Dodd, the American Ambassador, which you mentioned in your Document Book I, at Page 54. It was on 28th May, 1934, and Mr. Dodd had told you apparently what he had said to Hitler about the way Americans were trying to control profiteering by great financial interests. He said that you said that you were glad that he had informed Hitler, and then added "that the Chancellor had not agreed with me." Then he says: "Von Neurath was silent for a moment after my remarks. It was plain that he was entirely of my way of thinking. He begged me to say to Washington that the outbreak was entirely contrary to the German Government's purpose, but he did not commit himself on Hitler." What did you mean by that " ... that the outbreak against Jews was entirely contrary to the German Government's purpose ... "?

A. By that I wanted to say that the members of the Cabinet, the majority of them, were against these methods. Apart from that, I can add that I had just asked Mr. Dodd to go and see Hitler personally so as to give a backing to the suggestions I was making to Hitler. I took him there.

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