The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 23rd July, 1946
(Part 11 of 12)


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The first problem the defendant and von Papen, who was Reich Chancellor A the time, managed to conduct towards a satisfactory solution at the conference hod by the Powers in Lausanne on 10th June, 1932, a few days after the defendant's assumption of office. At the closing session of the conference on 9th July, 1932, Germany was freed from the financial servitude established by the Treaty of Versailles against a single final payment of three milliard of marks. The Young Plan was obsolete, and only Germany's obligations deriving from the loans granted her remained in force. Thus came for Germany the political achievement that Part VIII of the Treaty of Versailles, in which the reparation obligations were contained in virtue of Article 232, became obsolete. The first breach was made.

Matters were different as regards the disarmament problem. This arose from the obligation for disarmament imposed on Germany according to Part V of the Treaty of Versailles which, I presume, is well known. In case of its fulfilment, the preamble to this part likewise prescribed disarmament for the highly armed victorious nations in reciprocity. Germany had disarmed: it had already fully met its obligations in 1927, an uncontested fact which the League of Nations also had expressly recognized. This was the basis for Germany's request for reciprocal compliance by the other partners to the Treaty, as provided for in the Preamble to Part V. And Germany had announced her request for disarmament by the highly armed States and in conjunction therewith recognition of her equality of rights a considerable time before the defendant took office. However, during the so-called Disarmament Conference the negotiations not only had made no progress by the time the defendant took over the Foreign Office, but just at that time, the summer of 1932, they had become considerably more difficult. In view of the short time allotted for my disposal, I again refer for details to the German Memorandum of 29th August, 1932 (my Document Book II, No. 40) and to my client's interview of 6th September, 1932, with a representative of the Wolff Telegraph Office, to be found in the same document book under No. 41. Lastly, I should like to refer to the defendant's declaration of 30th September, 1932, before representatives of the German Press, submitted to the Tribunal under No. 45, my Document Book II.

These declarations, all of which were made preparatory to the resumption of negotiations at the Disarmament Conference on 16th October, 1932, and in order to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation to the world and to the Western Powers - prove clearly and unequivocally the great, fundamental tendency of the defendant's ideas, his trend of thought and intentions as a human being, as a diplomat and as Foreign Minister, which dominated his entire policy from the beginning until his resignation, and which can be summarised in the statement to avoid and prevent the settling of differences through force of arms; to realize all goals and tasks of German foreign policy by peaceful means only; to reject war as a means of policy; in a word, to strengthen and safeguard peace among the nations.

It is the same tendency which M. Francois Poncet, the former French Ambassador to Berlin, so eloquently referred to as a characteristic of the defendant in his letter - which I submitted to the Tribunal as No. 157 of my Document Book V - and which was unanimously confirmed by all witnesses and affidavits.

While the opening of negotiations at the Disarmament Conference started with what really might be termed an affront to Germany, which caused the head of the German Delegation to declare that under such conditions it would not be possible for him to continue to attend the negotiations, the Western Powers in the end

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could not close their minds to the ethics of a policy inspired by such tendencies, and following a suggestion by the British Government, on 11th December, 1932, the conclusion of the well-known Five-Power Agreement was achieved (see my Document Book II, 47a) in which England, France and Italy, with the admission of the United States of America, recognized Germany's equality of rights. On 14th December, 1932, the Main Committee of the Disarmament Conference expressed its satisfaction in acknowledging this agreement, and the German Delegate expressed his readiness to resume participation in the deliberation of the conference, stressing also that the quality recognized on 11th December, 1932, in regard to Germany was the condicio sine qua non or this continued participation by Germany.

It seemed that a great step forward had thus been made in the path leading to an understanding on the question of disarmament.

However, things were to take a different turn. Immediately following the opening of the conference meeting again in Geneva on 2nd February, 1933, serious clashes occurred between the German and the French Delegations, in the course of which M. Paul Boncour, the French Delegate, even went so far as to declare the Five-Power Agreement of 11th December, 1932, legally invalid because it involved five powers only. To the astonishment not only of Germany, the cause for these increasingly acute differences was the fundamental change in France's attitude as regards the basic question of the entire armaments problem laid down in the French plan of 14th November, 1932, as a basis for these negotiations. For, contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles and its own attitude heretofore, France suddenly took the position in this plan that armies composed of professional soldiers with a long period of service were aggressive in character and, consequently, meant a threat to peace and that only armies with a short period of service were defensive in character.

I regret that for lack of time I must desist not only from referring at greater length to the details of the French plan, but also to the sequence of the differences which became more and more critical between Germany and the other Powers. Rather, I must presume that they are known and confine myself to stressing that the new French thesis, which the Disarmament Conference adopted as its own, was clearly and unequivocally directed against Germany and the Reichswehr as it had come into being in accordance with the disarmament stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles, a thesis which, if it were to be carried into effect, would have required the transformation of the Reichswehr into a militia army with a short period of service, thus signifying a still further reduction in its armament, inadequate as it already was for an effective protection against attack. The establishment of this thesis; however, also proved clearly that France was unwilling to disarm, which was also shown by statements of the French representative himself.

This new plan of France, as also her attitude particularly in the question of the ratio in the reduction of the individual armies, was merely a new expression of her old thesis, first security, then disarmament, which brought about the failure not only of the previous negotiations but also that of a new plan of mediation, the so-called MacDonald plan, proposed by England to prevent the threatening breakdown of negotiations.

Germany's reference to consideration for her own security and her demand for general disarmament as a result of the right to equality by reason of recognition accorded her on 11th December, 1932, were received by the other parties as a provocation, indication being given that, should negotiations fail, responsibility would rest with her.

In the interest of the clarification of these things and of the presentation of the increasing gravity of the whole situation to the whole world, my client felt it necessary to publish an article in the well-known Geneva periodical Volkerbund on 11th May, 1933 - Document Book II, 51 - in which he discussed the result which the conference had so far achieved, described the German attitude in detail,

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and finally established that the German demand for the practical realization of the equality of rights of Germany by disarmament of the heavily armed countries was wrecked by the lack of will of those countries to disarm; and that Germany, therefore, in the interest of her own security, was forced to start completing her armament, should the general limitation and disarmament within the framework of the English MacDonald plan not satisfy her justified demands for security.

This conclusion was wholly justified in view of the entire foreign political situation at that time. These aggravated events which had intensified the crisis at the Disarmament Conference were only a small part, so to speak, of the expression of the international tension which prevailed since Hitler's assumption of power. Domestic events occurring in Germany were first observed abroad with astonishment, but also with a certain lack of comprehension.

Soon after Hitler had assumed power, on 30th January, 1933, an opinion was formed abroad - the discussion of which would extend too far here - about the so-called German Revolution, which made it appear a European danger not only to France and her allies but also to Great Britain as well. The fear of such a danger affected to an ever-increasing degree the attitude of the Western Powers at the Disarmament Conference, where Germany's completely logical and consistent point of view was regarded as a provocation. But these worries of theirs, their insecurity in the face of the new Germany, led to even much more extensive measures and threats.

With England's consent France began military preparations in the first days of May, 1933 placing the frontier fortifications - which had already been provided with increased garrisons during the winter - in a state of alarm, alerting the large camps in Lorraine, the deployment area of her army of the Rhine, and carrying out a large trial mobilization between Belfort, Mulhouse and St. Ludwig, at which the Chief of the French General Staff, General Weygand, appeared in person. And at the same time the French Foreign Minister, Paul Boncour, ostentatiously declared in his speech on 12th May, 1933, before the French Senate that, in view of the revolutionary explosions in Germany, Italy would have to be kept firmly among the group of Western Powers; and, in response to Germany's attitude at the Disarmament Conference, he added that Germany must adhere strictly to the Treaty of Versailles if she wanted to keep the Reichswehr. These words of the French Minister, which could only be understood as a threat, were still further emphasized and confirmed by similar statements of the British Minister of War, Hailsham, and the otherwise pacifist-minded Lord Cecil, in the English House of Commons; the latter even encouraged France to carry out further military operations. The situation was so strained that Europe seemed to be standing directly on the brink of a new war.

This increasing gravity of the situation, this obvious crisis which was leading Europe close to disaster is one of the basic reasons for the entire subsequent policy of the defendant won Neurath during the following years. Therefore, the question must be examined as briefly as possible, to see what consequences it was bound to have and did have, for German foreign policy, from the German point of view. One thing is undeniably clear: in the spring of 1933 Germany was in no condition whatsoever to fight a war; it would have been complete madness, a sheer desire for self-destruction, to fight a war against the armies of France and her allies, which counted millions of men and were excellently equipped with the latest weapons of attack, with the small Reichswehr of one hundred thousand men which had at its disposal no motorized weapons of attack whatsoever, no tanks, no heavy artillery, no military aeroplanes.

Fear of an imminent warlike attack on the part of Germany could, therefore, from the point of view of the Western Powers, under no circumstances be the reason for their position and attitude. The one plausible reason could lie only in the attitude of the Western Powers in regard to the question of disarmament as such, that is, in their unwillingness to carry it out, and their determination to

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continue to discriminate against Germany, to continue to refuse her the realization of her equality of rights and to continue to keep her down.

In this alone, in the eyes of the leader of German foreign policy, lay the reason for the final French and English proposals at the Disarmament Conference, which were unacceptable to Germany for reasons of justice as well as for reasons of her own security and her national honour. Because even in spite of Germany's equality, which was recognized by the Western Powers in the Five-Power Declaration, the French plan of 14th November, 1932, as well as also the English plan of 16th March, 1933, the MacDonald plan, and the resolutions of the Disarmament Conference included therein, lacked any practical realization of equality, even from the most objective standpoint.

What justly and objectively thinking person can and wishes to reproach the German State leadership if it drew these conclusions from all this, and recognized that this behaviour of the Western Powers contained not only a violation of existing treaties, and also of the Treaty of Versailles with regard to disarmament, but also disclosed the will of the Western Powers to prevent Germany from maintaining her demands, justified by treaty, by force of arms if necessary, and furthermore to keep her as a second- rate State, and to refuse her the security guaranteed her also in the Treaty of Versailles?

Can you, your Honours, reproach a State leadership which was aware of its responsibility towards its people, if this realization from now on had to be decisive for the continued direction of foreign policy? Because the highest duty of every State leadership which is aware of its responsibility in foreign policy is the securing and maintenance of the existence and the independence of its State, the regaining of a respected and free position in the Council of Nations. A statesman who neglects this duty sins against his own people. This realization should carry all the more weight because, on the part of Germany, nothing had happened which might have been interpreted as a threat against the Western Powers. On the contrary, in his first programme speech in a Reichstag still elected in accordance with democratic principles, Hitler had emphatically declared on 23rd March, 1933. punctuated by unanimous applause, his will for peace, particularly emphasizing this with regard to France, and he confessed himself prepared for peaceful collaboration with the other nations of the earth, but emphasized also that as a prerequisite for this he considered necessary the final removal of the discrimination against Germany, the division of the nations into victors and vanquished.

To these declarations of his, however, not the slightest attention was paid by the Western Powers, although they corresponded throughout with the given conditions and contained nothing less than a threat. Unfortunately, they were unable to effect a change in the attitude of the Western Powers, and to prevent an acceleration of the crisis.

A discernible relaxation only took place when Hitler, under the influence of the defendant von Neurath, at the climax of the crisis, repeated once more to the world, with the greatest emphasis, his and the German people's will for peace in his great so-called peace address before the Reichstag on 16th May, 1933 - it is in excerpt form in my Document Book II, No. 52 - and expressed his conviction that, as he declared literally, no new European war would be in the position to replace the unsatisfactory conditions of today by something better; the outbreak of such an insanity, as he described the war, would be bound to lead to the collapse of the present social and State order.

This speech of Hitler, whose honesty and sincerity cannot be denied according to the evidence, and whose power of conviction also proved irresistible to the Western Powers, effected a general relaxation of the situation, the danger of a new international war was averted, and the world took a deep breath. This, however, also marked the end of the isolation and the loneliness of Germany, which had caused her inner change and every kind of revolution, and German foreign policy gladly and with a sincere will took the opportunity for active collaboration in the

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political State gamble, an opportunity offered her by the suggestion of Mussolini to unite the great powers, England, France, Italy and Germany, in a so-called Four-Power Pact. This treaty, which was drawn up on 8th June, 1933, in Rome and which was signed in the middle of June, 1933, also by Germany, and which in its preamble also referred expressly to the Five-Power Agreement of 11th December, 1932, was to place the participating powers in such a position that, if further negotiations in a larger circle, as for example in the Disarmament Conference, should reach a stalemate, they could meet at a smaller conference table. For Germany, the main motive lay in the fact that she again became an active member in the body of European policy in which she was participating as a partner with equal rights in an international agreement, which contrasted the discrimination against Germany in its contents as well as in its character.

As a matter of fact, this pact was concluded at a time when a new international tension was already arising and increasing which again threatened to isolate Germany's position. This time it had its source not so much in the Disarmament Conference, the proceedings of which, after the customary fruitless endeavours for progress, were again suspended on 29th June, 1933, until 16th October, 1933, as in the contrasting position of Germany and Austria in the World Economic Conference which opened in London on 12th June, 1933. The Austrian Prime Minister Dollfuss made use of this conference to call the attention of the powers to an alleged threat to Austria's independence by Germany, in that he accused Germany, of lending support to the Austrian National Socialists in their fight against his Government. Making the Austrian question the centre of gravity for European policy and calling on the Powers for protection against an alleged threat to Austria's independence by Germany - which the former considered an important stone in the construction of European power relations - he aggravated their mood anew, which it had been difficult to quiet down only a short time before. What the mood was then in the summer of 1933 is shown in my Document Book I, under Nos. 11 and 12, reports of the defendant to Reich President von Hindenburg and Hitler, dated 19th June, 1933; but reference is also made to it in the speech by the defendant on 15th September, 1933, Document Book II, No. 56 - before representatives of the foreign Press, which also comments on the consequences of such a mood for the prospects of the proposed negotiations to be resumed by the Disarmament Conference on 16th October, 1933, and which is reflected in his words:

"Judging by certain indications the readiness of highly armed States to carry out disarmament obligations for which they pledged themselves today seems to be smaller than ever. Finally, there is only one alternative:

Realization of the right to equality or else a collapse of the entire idea of disarmament, with incalculable consequences, for which responsibility would not rest on Germany."

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