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 5 of 11)

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

[Page 168]

Q. But did you know, in May, 1934, that the German Government was going in for systematic and virulent anti-Semitism, did you not know that?

A. Anti-Semitic propaganda, I know mainly from Herr Goebbels's speeches.

Q. Yes; well, let us pass to something a little more concrete. Had you any reason for disliking General von Schleicher or General von Bredow?

A. No.

Q. What was the effect on your mind of these two gentlemen and Frau von Schleicher being killed in the blood purge of 36th June, 1934?

A. I hardly need to answer that. Of course, I was repulsed by it, that is clear; but then I told you the other day that unfortunately, in the case of such a revolt, innocent people always have to suffer as well.

Q. I see. But just let us get it clear. You told the Tribunal the other day that you thought - and had some reason for thinking - that there was a movement in the SA, that is, a movement led by Roehm and Ernst, and I suppose people that you would consider undesirable of that sort; what reason had you to suppose that General von Schleicher and General von Bredow had been in a conspiracy, if any?

A. I had no reason at all, and I do not believe today that they were plotting.

Q. Did you hear at the same time about the unfortunate way in which Herr von Papen kept on losing secretaries? You remember, you know.

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know that Herr von Bose and Jung were killed, and von Tschirsky and two other gentlemen were arrested? Did you hear about that?

A. Yes, I did, through Herr von Papen.

Q. And did you regard the blood purge of 30th June as just another element in the necessary cleaning up of public life?

A. To the extent that it included all the outrages and murders of innocent people, most certainly not.

Q. Why did you continue in a government that was using murder as an instrument of political action?

A. I have already told you twice that in the case of such revolutions such mishaps cannot be avoided, most unfortunately.

Q. I see. Well, now, let us take just another of your 1934 experiences. You knew about the terroristic acts that were going on in Austria in May and June of 1934, did you not; and by "terroristic acts" - do not let us have any doubt about it - what I mean is the blowing up of Austrian public utilities and railways and things like that. I mean dynamite. I do not mean anything vague. You knew that such acts were going on in Austria in May and June, 1934, did you not?

[Page 169]

A. Yes, I heard about it, and I always opposed that sort of thing, because I knew that it was done by Nazis, and let me say once more, mostly by Austrian Nazis.

Q. What position did Herr Koepke have in your Ministry on 31st May, 1934?

A. He was the Ministerial Director.

Q. Ministerial Director: quite a responsible position, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember Herr Koepke reporting to you on 31st May, 1934, on a visit of Baron von Wachter?

A. No, I cannot remember that.

Q. Well, just think; Baron von Wachter was one of the leaders of the putsch against Dollfuss six weeks later, on 25th July. Do you not remember Herr Koepke making a report to you and you passing it on to Hitler?

A. No, I cannot remember that.

Q. Let us refresh your memory if you do not remember it. Would you look at Document 868-D? It will become Exhibit GB 515. Just look at it. I will read it over, but just look at the signatories carefully and if you will be good enough to look at the top, I think you will find, on the original, there are your own initials, and on the left-hand side there is a note: "The Reich Chancellor has been informed 6/6." That is on 6th June. That is initialled "L" by Lammers, Dr. Lammers. Then there is a note below that: "From the Reich Chancellor on 6th June," also initialled "Lammers" I think. And on the other side you will see there is a note which is certainly initialled "Lammers." It reads: "Habicht is coming today ... L 6/6." And this memorandum comes back from the Reich Chancellor to the Foreign Office on the same day. Now just let us see what report you were getting from Austria and passing on to Hitler. We will omit, unless you want it particularly, a description of Baron von Wachter's fresh, youthful appearance in Paragraph 1; but it goes on to say:

"His statements were obviously made in full consciousness of serious responsibility. His estimation of the affairs and personalities that came under review was clear and definite. Herr von Wachter drew up for me, too, a picture of the situation in Austria which was, in some of its colours, even darker and more serious than it had appeared to us here up till now. The extremist tendencies of the National Socialists in Austria were constantly on the increase. Terrorist acts were multiplying. Irrespective of who actually undertook the demolitions and other terrorist acts in individual cases, each such act provoked a new wave of extremism and further desperate acts. As Herr von Wachter repeatedly and sadly stressed, uniformity of leadership was lacking. The SA did what it wanted and what it, for its part, considered necessary. The political leadership at the same time introduced measures which sometimes meant the exact opposite. Thus, the great terrorist action, as the result of which the railway lines leading to Vienna were blown up, was by no means committed by Marxists, but by the Austrian SA, and indeed against the wishes of the political leadership which, as he - von Wachter - believed, did not participate in any way either in the act or its preparation. Such is the picture as a whole. In detail, in individual provinces and districts, the confusion was, if possible, even greater."
Then he says that the main seat of unrest is Carinthia where conditions were worst. And then he says:
"Herr von Wachter thought that here improvements must be introduced most speedily, by means of the centralisation of all forces active in the interests of National Socialism both in Austria itself and outside Austria. Personal questions should play no part here. The decisive word in this connection could, of course, be given only by the Fuehrer himself. He, Wachter, was in complete agreement with Herr Habicht on all these matters. As far as

[Page 170]

he knew, Herr Habicht had already succeeded in having a brief conversation with the Reich Chancellor today."
Now just let us pause there for a moment. Herr Habicht was appointed about that time Press Attache at the German Embassy in Vienna. The appointment of Herr Habicht as Press Attache would be done either by you or with your approval, would it not? It was under your department?

A. Today I no longer know if Herr Habicht ... Herr Habicht was the National Socialist leader (Landesleiter) for Austria in Munich, and whether he went to Vienna as Press Attache I do not know.

Q. Well, you can take it that he went to Vienna as Press Attache at this time, at the end of May, 1934, and what I am asking you is, was it not either at your order or with your approval that he was given a post which gave him diplomatic immunity in the middle of his plottings?

A. If Herr Habicht was really there this happened neither with my knowledge nor with my approval, but presumably it was arranged by the Ministry of Propaganda, to whom these Press men were subordinate.

Q. Well, you will agree with me, defendant, that this is not a very pleasant document; it does not describe a very pleasant state of affairs. Let me remind you, this came from your Ministerial Director to you, and went on to the Fuehrer and came back from Dr. Lammers with a note: "Habicht is coming today." Surely as ...

A. To the Fuehrer?

Q. Yes, yes.

A. Mr. Prosecutor, I want to point out to you that here only the Austrian National Socialists are being discussed. With them I had nothing at all to do.

Q. What I am pointing out to you is that the document, this Foreign Office document goes to the Reich Chancellery; it comes back on 6th June with a note from Dr. Lammers saying: "Habicht is coming today." You must have known all about Habicht on 6th June. It is mentioned in this report.

A. Not at all. I have this note from Lammers which means that Habicht was coming to see the Reich Chancellor. And this report from my Ministerial Director I immediately passed on to the Reich Chancellor to show him what the conditions were in Austria. That was the reason.

Q. But you remember Herr von Papen giving evidence a few days ago, and when I asked him who were the leading Reich German personalities who influenced the putsch in Austria in July, 1934, he thought for a long time, and the only leading Reich German personality that he could remember as influencing the putsch was this very Herr Habicht?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, then, what I am putting to you is that you knew very well, on 6th June, 1934, that Herr Habicht, this leading Reich personality, according to the defendant von Papen, was organising revolution in Austria, did you not?

A. Whatever makes you suppose a thing like that? Herr Habicht never came to see me. He went to see the Reich Chancellor.

Q. You saw this report. This is a report of your Ministerial Director. I have just read what von Wachter thought.

A. There is not one word about Herr Habicht in it.

Q. Yes, I just read that to you. May I remind you: "The decisive word in this connection could of course be given only by the Fuehrer himself. He, Wachter, was in complete agreement with Herr Habicht on all these matters."

In other words, what Wachter is putting to the Foreign Office were the views of Habicht no less than himself.

A. Yes, that is certainly in there. Well, all these terrorist acts and all these disturbances which are described in this document were brought to the attention of the Reich Chancellor by myself.

[Page 171]

Q. Well, now, just look at what the report says at the foot of the page: "But when nothing happened in the meantime, and the counter-measures of the Austrian Government grew more brutal and severe from day to day, the radical elements made themselves felt once more, and came forward with the statement that the Chancellor had issued his order only for tactical reasons, and was inwardly in agreement with every firm act of opposition and had in view, as his own political aim, merely the weakening of Dollfuss's hateful system, though in a way which should be as unobtrusive as possible to the outside world. They are now working with this argument."

Listen to the next bit, his suggestion to you, the nearest warning of trouble which any Foreign Minister ever heard of:

"One constantly stumbles on this idea during discussions and it is secretly spreading. A change must be made soon and a uniform leadership created. Otherwise, as Herr yon Wachter said at the end of his impressive description, a disaster may occur any day which would have the worst possible consequences in foreign policy, not only for Austria alone, but above all for Germany herself."
And then, dramatically, in the middle of the conversation, Herr yon Wachter receives a telephone message that he had better not go back to Vienna or he will be arrested on his arrival; and within six weeks he had started the putsch and Chancellor Dollfuss had been shot. Do you remember now? Did you not appreciate, at the beginning of June, 1934, that there was the greatest danger of an uprising and trouble in Austria?

A. Yes, quite definitely so. That is the very reason why I sent the report to the Chancellor. I could not interfere in Austria.

Q. Perhaps you can tell me, concerning the question to which the defendant yon Papen was unable to give a clear answer, who, in your opinion, were the other prominent Reich German personalities who were behind the Dollfuss putsch in Austria? You say you were not. Who, in your opinion, were these personalities that Herr yon Papen mentions as being behind the Dollfuss putsch?

A. I know absolutely none. I only know Habicht, and him I knew only as a person against whom I protested to Hitler because of his inflammatory actions. Apart from him I did not know any Reich Germans. The others were all Austrian National Socialists who have been mentioned innumerable times during the trial, but whom I did not know.

Q. I am not mentioning them. I am mentioning the defendant yon Papen's prominent Reich German personalities and I am trying very hard to find out who they were. Are you taking the same line, that the only one you can remember is the Press Attache, Herr Habicht? Is that all you can help the Tribunal in this matter?

A. I have already said, and that will have to suffice, I do not know anyone.

Q. Is it your opinion that your Minister, Dr. Rieth, knew nothing about this, despite what Mr. Messersmith says on that point? Do you think Dr. Rieth knew nothing about the putsch?

A. I cannot tell you to what extent Herr Rieth was informed. You know, however, that he acted so ostentatiously later on that I recalled him right away. Apart from that, I always forbade the Ambassadors to meddle in such matters.

Q. You have not any doubt in your own mind that Dr. Rieth knew all about the impending putsch, have you?

A. Oh, yes, I have considerable doubts that he knew all about it. I do not believe so because his whole character was not at all like that.

Q. Well, now, at any rate, you know on 25th July that the Austrian Nazis had made this putsch and had murdered Dollfuss?

A. That is not exactly a secret.

Q. No, I know it. A lot of these things were not secret. What I am interested in was your knowledge - when you found out -

A. Afterwards, yes.

[Page 172]

Q. But didn't that give you any qualms about remaining in a government which had extended its policy of murder from at home to abroad, through the Party elements in Austria?

A. If I were responsible for every single murderer, for every single German murderer who was active abroad, then I would have had a lot of work to do, would I not?

Q. You knew, Herr von Neurath - and I shall remind you how in a moment - you knew that the Austrian NSDAP was in close touch with and acting under the orders of Hitler all the time when Hitler was head of your Government; you knew that perfectly well, did you not?

A. He was the chief of the NSDAP. It is quite natural that they were collaborating with him.

Q. Yes. Now there is just one other point -

A. Yes. I want to tell you another thing: I continuously remonstrated with Hitler, together with Herr von Papen, about the fact that this Herr Habicht was doing the things he was.

Q. We will take that up in a moment. I just want to get one point of fact. Does this accord with your recollection: I have been through all the reports of the defendant von Papen and apart from three personal reports, two dealing with Herr von Tschirschky and one dealing with abuse of Hitler, which is of no political significance, we have twenty-eight reports. Nineteen of these reports are marked as being copies to the Foreign Office. Is that in accord with your recollection, that three out of four of Herr von Papen's reports would come to you to be seen by you?

A. That I cannot tell you at this late date.

Q. You are quite right, Herr von Neurath. You would not know how many went to you, but you say you saw a considerable number of Herr von Papen's reports. I think there were nineteen; I am sure you can take it that they are marked, nineteen are marked: "Passed to the Foreign Office."

A. I do believe you, yes, but the question is how many were submitted to me, for I did not receive every individual report from every Ambassador or Minister abroad. Otherwise, I would have been drowned in paper.

Q. I quite agree, but what I asked you was, did you receive these from Herr von Papen, who was supposed to be in a rather special position dealing with a very difficult problem? Did you receive a considerable number of reports from Herr von Papen to Hitler as passed to you?

A. I can only tell you that I received some reports but certainly not all. I cannot tell you more than that today.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, perhaps this would be a convenient time to break off.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn at this time.

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