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 12 of 12)


[Page 283]

This scepticism of the defendant as regards the political situation in general, and prospects of the Disarmament Conference in particular, were only too well founded. For the new so-called Simon Plan-submitted even before the Conference started by Sir John Simon, head of the English Delegation, as a basis for negotiations - and to no less a degree the statement relative thereto made by Sir John, made it clear beyond doubt that the attitude of the Western Powers still continued to be the same as in the spring of 1933 and that they were even still less disposed to do justice to Germany's demand for an equality of rights. For Sir John. declared in plain language that in view of the present non-clarified conditions in Europe, and considering the seriously shaken confidence in peace, a disarmament conference, even according to the pattern of the MacDonald Plan, which Germany had declared unacceptable in the spring, was an impossibility.

This not only meant bringing an unjustified accusation against Germany - which had done no more but stand on the rights accorded it by treaty - but it also was a clear denial of any kind of realization of Germany's equality of rights and of

[Page 284]

disarmament. As a matter of fact, this Simon Plan fell even farther short than previous plans in doing justice to Germany's rightful demand for equality of rights and disarmament, that is, a balancing of all States' armament in accordance with one another, including Germany.

Time being too short, I once more have to refrain here from going into detail and must confine myself to pointing out that it meant an increased restriction and reduction of German armament in favour of the other nations. For it provided that during the first half of the eight years' duration of the proposed disarmament, Germany alone - through the conversion of its Reichswehr into an army with a brief period of service - would practically be still further disarmed, subjecting herself, in addition, to an armament control by the powers, while the highly armed powers were not scheduled to begin disarming until the fifth year, and then only in terms of manpower reserve, not in terms of arms. These provisions demonstrated more clearly than ever that not only did the Western Powers not intend to disarm, but that they wanted to weaken Germany still more and make her tractable to their power interests. There was no more mention made of the fact that the Five-Power Agreement of 11th December, 1932, had agreed to recognize Germany's equality of rights.

It really should have been clear to the Western Powers as well that such a plan depriving her of a chance to participate in further negotiations at the Conference was bound to be unacceptable to Germany from the outset. However, on the strength of the lessons which German foreign policy learned in the spring of 1933 - when Germany came very near having the Western Powers threaten her with war because she was unwilling to renounce her just demands - nothing was left to her this time but to answer the new threat which this plan undoubtedly involved, not only by rejecting the plan but also by withdrawing from the Disarmament Conference as well as the League of Nations. Further negotiations during the conference under such conditions were deemed hopeless from the very start and could only result in a still greater heightening of contrasts.

It is difficult to understand why the Western Powers failed to foresee Germany's attitude and were surprised by her withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference. In Hitler's speech, already referred to here, an appeal for peace, delivered on 17th May, 1933, he expressed in unequivocal terms that notwithstanding the sincere will for peace and honest readiness for still further disarmament - provided it were mutual - entertained by the German Government and the German people, they would never consent to further humiliation and to renunciation of her claim for equality of rights but that, if such was the demand, they would rather assume the consequences without hesitation. Still more incomprehensible is the fact that in all earnestness the prosecution places the blame for this withdrawal by Germany on her foreign policy, and that it believes it can find evidence of deliberate action for the preparation of wars of aggression; and this can only be understood by the fact that the prosecution preserves a complete silence on the reasons and happenings which led up to this withdrawal and thereby tries to create the impression that Germany's withdrawal occurred entirely without cause. The extent to which the prosecution's attempt to interpret the withdrawal as an action in preparation for war is contrary to objective history becomes clearly apparent from the fact - which the prosecution also passed over in silence - that concurrent with its declaration of withdrawal, the German Government, through Hitler's speech of 14th October, 1933, as well as also through the speech of the defendant won Neurath of 18th October, 1933 (Document Book II, Nos. 58 and 59), not only declared with all possible emphasis its unchanging desire for peace and readiness to negotiate in the case of any disarmament plan which would consider Germany's equality of rights, but also tried to carry into practice this willingness to negotiate by submitting on her part practical proposals for general disarmament, is set forth in the memorandum prepared by my client and submitted to the Powers on 18th December, 1933 (Document Book II, No. 61).

[Page 285]

The interview granted by the defendant to the representative of the New York Times in Berlin (Document Book II, No. 62) is an expression of the same endeavour. A government or a foreign minister who intend to prepare, or even plan, an aggressive war are hardly likely to make proposals for limiting or even reducing still further the armament of countries, including their own.

Diplomatic negotiations between Germany and the individual Western Powers which followed the memorandum of 18th December, 1933, ended, as I may presume to be well known, with the note of the French Government to the English Government of 17th April, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 70), which closed the door to further negotiations as proposed in an English memorandum of 29th January, 1934 as well as another memorandum of the German Government of 13th March, 1934 as this was fully stated in the speech of the defendant won Neurath on 27th April, 1934 (Document Book III No. 70).

The fact which appeared in the preceding discussions is interesting and must be emphasized here, that in their course an indisputable change was shown in relations between France and Russia, the further development of which became more or less authoritative, not only for German foreign policy, but also for the entire European policy in the coming years. The Russian representative in his speech in the office of the Disarmament Conference on 10th April, 1934, took the stand, contrary to the point of view always previously represented by Russia, that the task of the Disarmament Conference was to decide on a most wide-reaching reduction of armaments, as thereby security would be best provided for, and though he admitted the failure of their disarmament efforts, he did not, however, draw the conclusion therefrom that the Conference had broken down, but on the contrary defined creation of new security instruments of International Law as the sole task of the Disarmament Conference, a point of view which was underlined further by the Russian Foreign Minister Litvinov on 29th April, 1934. With this thesis Russia had adopted France's point of view: First security, then disarmament; and beyond that the door was opened to the increased armament exertions of all nations. It becomes evident immediately of what far- reaching importance this fact was, if I refer to the French- Russian Assistance Pact which was signed one year later and which induced the re-establishment of German armed sovereignty, occasioned by this and by the increase in armament of all the remaining States. A direct route leads from this declaration of the Russian Foreign Minister, via the negotiations in the summer of 1934 regarding the project of the so-called Eastern Pact, to the Franco-Russian Assistance Pact of 2nd May, 1935, and the Russian- Czechoslovak Assistance Pact of 16th May, 1935.

The French Note of 17th April, 1934, with its categorical "No", signified the end of an epoch and the beginning of a new one in international policy. France finally made it understood that she was no longer willing to carry on with a general agreement between all States aiming at a solution of the questions of disarmament and security, but decided to go her own different way from now on. The reason for this lay obviously in the fact that she recognized, or thought she had recognized, that the most important of the participating Powers, England and Italy, were no longer prepared to follow her unconditionally, and to continue to refuse Germany the equality of rights theoretically granted her on 11th December, 1932. This was expressed through the far-reaching rapprochement of the English and Italian points of view in the English Memorandum of 29th January, 1934, and in the declaration of Mussolini to the English Minister Eden on 26th February, 1934, which dealt with the clearly outlined German point of view in the Memoranda of 13th March and 16th April, 1934.

A similar tendency was shown in the Memorandum of the so- called neutral Powers, namely Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, of 14th April, 1934, but also, above all, the speech of the Belgian Prime, Minister Count de Brocqueville of 6th March, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 66), showed the same tendency.

[Page 286]

With this note of 17th April, 1934, to which he referred in his speech of 27th April, 1934 - (Document Book III; No. 74) - before the German Press, the defendant von Neurath explained his attitude thoroughly and convincingly. France, as was soon apparent, finally abandoned the basis and the principles of the Versailles Treaty, the preamble to Part V of which fixed in an unmistakable manner the general disarmament of all States of the League of Nations as the basis and the counter-obligation for the disarmament of Germany. The new French policy set up immediately after the note of 17th April, 1934, soon made it known that she had decided to do exactly the opposite of the basic idea of the Versailles Treaty regarding German disarmament.

On 20th April, 1934, the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou began his journey eastwards, which took him to Warsaw and Prague, and first of all, as it soon transpired, he tried to prepare the ground for the resumption of diplomatic relations between the States of the so-called Little Entente with Russia, which so far did not exist, and thus prepare the way for the inclusion of the greatest military power of Europe in European politics on the side of France. He succeeded. Czechoslovakia and Roumania, the most important States of the Little Entente, recognized and renewed diplomatic relations with the Russian Government on 9th June, 1934. Thus France had made the first breach in the ideological and psychological aversion at that time felt by the European States against Soviet Russia, and the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, then on his second journey to the East, was not only able to win the consent of all States of the Little Entente to the so-called Eastern Pact which France had long ago been negotiating with Russia, but able to place it openly on the agenda of International Policy in London at the beginning of July. With this; as the Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Affairs, Benes, justly stated in his speech of 2nd July, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 81) a regrouping of the European Powers was announced which appeared capable of overthrowing to a certain extent all former relations on the Continent.

England, who already on 18th May, 1934, had stated through the mouth of Stanley Baldwin, who at that time was Lord President of the Council, before the House of Commons, that, in view of the question of a system of so-called collective peace, which of necessity would have to contain the need for sanctions, she stood before one of the most difficult decisions in her history - he coined the phrase: "Sanctions are war" - gave her agreement in the beginning of July, 1934, on the occasion of the visit of Barthou to London, not only to the Eastern Pact but in addition also to the entry of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations, which had been suggested by France. On 18th December, 1934, the League of Nations officially resolved to accept the U.S.S.R. into the League. Thus France had for the most part already reached her goal, the inclusion of the U.S.S.R., the strongest military power, into European politics, and, indeed, at her side as would shortly be shown.

In spite of this heralded change of European power conditions, German foreign policy under the direction of the defendant not only continued calmly and consistently in its peaceful struggle for the practical recognition of German equality - even after the French note of 17th April, 1934, which it considered disastrous - but also its policy of peace. In his speech of 27th April, 1934, already previously quoted, my client once more and unreservedly expressed the will of Germany, namely that she was also in future prepared for any sort of an understanding even at the price of further armament limitations by agreement, if this would correspond with her demand for equality. She did not, however, limit herself to this alone. In order to resume the international discussions and negotiations regarding the disarmament question, which had been interrupted by France's "No" of 17th April, 1934, Hitler met Mussolini in Venice in the middle of June, 1934. The purpose and subjects of discussion at this meeting were at that time summarised by Mussolini with the words: "We have met in order to try to disperse the clouds which are darkening the political horizon of Europe."

[Page 287]

May I, then, for the sake of prudence, recall the fact that Italy at that time was still entirely on the side of the Western Powers. Several days later, in his speech at the Gautag at Gera on 17th June, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 60), Hitler used the opportunity to emphasize once more his and Germany's unshakeable wish for peace when he stated literally amongst other things:
"If anyone says to us: 'If you National Socialists wish equality for Germany, then we must increase our armaments', then we can only say: 'As far as we are concerned, you can do so, because after all we have no intention of attacking you. We merely wish to be so strong that the others will have no wish to attack us. The more the world speaks of the formation of blocs, the clearer it becomes to us that we must concern ourselves with the maintenance of our own power'."
It was the change of the power relationships which was constantly taking more clearly defined shape, and the realization of political tendencies, which were also the bases of the English air armament programme, announced before the House of Commons on 19th July, 1934, and the idea which the French Prime Minister Doumergue expressed in his speech of 13th October, 1934, at the bier of the assassinated Minister, Louis Barthou, with the words: "The weak nations are booty or a danger." No matter how irrefutably correct this idea really was, as far as the attitude of the Western Powers toward Germany was concerned, it received as little consideration as all attempts of German foreign policy to carry on the negotiations regarding the disarmament question and as the repeated declarations of Germany about her preparedness for an understanding. Now, as before, Germany was denied the de facto recognition of her equality. Apart from the encirclement policy of France which became more discernible every day, this fact also made it impossible for German foreign policy to join the Eastern Pact. The reasons for this refutation of the Eastern Pact have been presented in detail in the communique of the German Government of 10th September, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 85). They culminated in the statement that Germany, in view of her indisputable military weakness and inferiority, could not take on any treaty obligations towards the highly armed States which might involve her in possible conflicts in the East, and could make her a probable theatre of operations.

It was not the lack of preparedness to participate in international treaties or even a lack of a will for peace which caused Germany to maintain this attitude, but first and foremost her notorious military weakness. Added to this was the true character of France's policy which showed itself more and more, and that of the Eastern Pact as an instrument of the French policy of encirclement directed against Germany. This character became clear to all the world when, in the session of the Army Committee of the French Cabinet on 23rd November, 1934, the reporter Archimbaud described it as an undeniable fact that a formal entente existed between France and Russia, on the basis of which, in the event of a conflict, France would be prepared to furnish a considerable, well-equipped and well-trained army (Document Book III, No. 89). This fact, however, was clearly and openly proved by the declaration of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laval, on 20th January, 1935, before a representative of the Russian newspaper Izvestia, in connection with the Franco-Russian Record of 5th December, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 91), and Litvinov's interpretations of it of 9th December, 1934. For those well informed there could exist no further doubt of the existence of a close French-Russian alliance, even if the ratification of its final text only took place on 2nd May, 1935, and was then immediately followed by the ratification of the Russo- Czechoslovak Non-Aggression Pact of 16th May, 1935.

It was, of necessity, forced upon the mind of every clear- thinking person that such a perfect system of French alliance bore a desperate likeness to the one which had opposed Germany once already in the year 1914. This involuntary parallel was bound to make every German statesman draw the conclusion that those alliances could only be directed against Germany and constituted accordingly, in every

[Page 288]

case, a menace to her. And this much more so, as these alliances, this obvious encirclement of Germany, were by no means the only alarming events. Coupled with it, a vast increase in military armaments of nearly all non-German countries had been carried out in the course of the preceding months. Not only had England begun to carry, out her large-scale armament programme, as is shown by the British White Book of 1st March, 1935, the submission of which does not seem necessary, since it is an official historical document, but in France, too, the efforts to reinforce her army had begun, under the guidance of Marshal Petain, her most popular general at that time; while in Russia an increase in the peace-time figure of her army from 600,000 to 940,000 men had taken place, with the joyful acquiescence of France. Czechoslovakia had introduced a two- year compulsory service in December, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 92), and Italy, too, was continually increasing her armaments.

After the bitter experiences of the latter years, all this was bound to be felt from the point of view of German politics, as I have shown you, my Lords, as nothing but a vast menace, and interpreted accordingly, a menace which left Germany all but defenceless.

A foreign policy, conscious of its responsibility, had to reckon at each moment with the danger that such a concentrated and continually increasing power of France and her allies could fall upon Germany and crush her. For nothing is more dangerous than a concentration of power in one hand. According to old experience, it is bound to cause an explosion some time, if not counter-balanced by some other power, and this explosion is then directed towards the nearest country considered as an enemy. This latter was and could be only Germany, as this country alone was considered by France as her foe, and no other country in the world besides her.

And now I beg to ask you, my Lords, whether it was not an obvious corollary, a demand of self-defence, an obvious demand of the most primitive instinct for self-preservation of any living being - and nations, too, are living entities, they too possess such an instinct for self-preservation - that now the German Government and the German people took back the military sovereignty, which had constantly been denied them without any reason, and that they tried to take measures of security against the menace hanging over Germany by organising a military air force and by the law concerning the establishing of a peace-time army of only 36 divisions on the basis of compulsory military service. I refer to the proclamation of the German Reich Cabinet concerning the restoration of German compulsory service of 16th March, 1935 (Document Book II, No. 97).

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 24th July, 1946.)

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