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-Fifth Day: Wednesday, 24th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[Page 297]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal makes the following order:

With reference to the case of the SS, the five witnesses, Brill, von Eberstein, Hinderfeld, Reinicke and Hausser are allowed.

Rode may be called to be cross-examined before the Commissioners.

Interrogatories may be administered to Rauschning, but they must be administered immediately and they will only be considered if they are received before the case is closed. Further extracts from Rauschning's book, which has been referred to, may be submitted to the Tribunal.

With reference to the case of the SD, the two witnesses applied for, Hoppner and Rosser, are allowed.

The two witnesses applied for by the Gestapo, Best and Hoffmann, are allowed.

With reference to the application on behalf of the Reich Cabinet, the witness named must be called before the Commission.

[Page 298]

With reference to the General Staff and High Command, General von Mannstein and two others will be allowed. If it is desired that General von Brauchitsch should be one of the two, he must be called before the Commission and it is necessary that these matters should be decided by counsel for the defendant organization at once.

With reference to the political leaders, the defendants' counsel must select five out of the witnesses applied for and those five will be allowed.

That is all.

I call on Dr. von Ludinghausen.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May it please the Tribunal: Yesterday I attempted to show the weighty and compelling reasons why the leaders of the German State had to decide to reinstate Germany's armed sovereignty.

But even before taking this decision Germany had waited for the outcome of the negotiations for a general agreement on disarmament, which the British Government had opened again with the so-called London communique of February 3rd, 1935, and in which Germany, faithful as always in its foreign policy to the principle of peace, had at once agreed to participate. Germany was prepared to wait even longer, until one could see whether or not these new negotiations were promising to succeed, but before the negotiations had really begun, the French Government, on 1st March, 1935, suddenly brought out a new defence bill concerning prolongation of military service, and almost simultaneously the British Government published its White Paper which has already been mentioned. In view of these two documents, the German Government had no alternative: it had to take the measure which I have described, otherwise it would have betrayed its own people.

The effect of these German Treasures on the Western Powers was a varied one. England and Italy, it is true, at once protested against them as an alleged unilateral cancellation of international treaties, but they did not by any means exclude the possibility of continued negotiations, and the British note of protest explicitly inquired whether the German Government was ready to conduct further negotiations of the nature and extent provided in the London communique. This inquiry was immediately answered in the affirmative by the defendant von Neurath; the reply was contained in the German communique of 18th March, 1935, Document Book III, No. 98, and the then British Foreign Secretary Eden went to Berlin at the end of March, 1935, for conversations about the possibilities of an agreement on the naval question.

In this connection, I particularly want to draw attention to the testimony of the witness, Ambassador Dr. Diekhoff, who was heard here. Only in France, as a consequence of her attitude that only the League of Nations was entitled to solve collectively the problems of disarmament and, therefore, of peace, only France considered it necessary to submit the measures taken by Germany to the League of Nations, on 20th March, 1935, and to induce the League to establish that Germany had committed a violation of a duty incumbent on all nations, the duty of carrying out obligations. It goes without saying that the German Government, in a note of April 20th, 1935, refused to accept the renewed discrimination contained in this resolution of the League of Nations. However, neither this resolution, nor the signing, on 2nd May, 1935, of the aforementioned Franco- Russian Treaty of Assistance, nor the Russian-Czechoslovak Treaty of Assistance which supplemented it, prevented Germany from continuing her very active efforts for an agreement with the Western Powers.

On 21st May, 1935, Hitler, in the German Reichstag, proclaimed a new peace programme, in which he again stressed, in the strongest and most far-reaching manner possible, his own and the German people's irrevocable will for peace, and his readiness to participate in any system, even of collective security, which would guarantee European peace, and to re-enter the League of Nations, provided that Germany's equality of rights was acknowledged, and to apply to the rearmament of the German Wehrmacht any restrictions which the other powers might also

[Page 299]

adopt. This speech of Hitler's and the diplomatic discussions with other powers, initiated at the same time, had the promising result that the well-known Naval Agreement of 18th June, 1935, establishing a fixed ratio of the respective naval forces was concluded between England and Germany.

This Anglo-German agreement is of the greatest importance in two respects. On the one hand, from a diplomatic point of view, it constitutes no more and no less than the de facto acknowledgement on the part of England of German armed sovereignty, the negation of the League of Nations resolution and, therefore, of the French point of view, and England's acknowledgement and approval of the German act which had been stigmatised by the League of Nations as a treaty violation For the first time, therefore, Germany's equality of rights was recognized not only de jure, but also de facto by one of the Western Powers, and by one of the most important. On the other hand, this agreement proves irrefutably from the point of view of this trial that the prosecution's contention, that Germany's rearmament was an act of preparation for Hitler's future wars of aggression, is incorrect. On the contrary, this Naval Agreement shows quite clearly that German foreign policy at that time, while it was still conducted by my client, had no warlike intentions of any sort; not to speak of plans, and that the reinstatement of German armed sovereignty was not under any circumstances an indication of warlike intentions, but an obviously defensive measure and nothing else. Would a statesman who harbours warlike intentions or plans voluntarily consent to a restriction of his armaments, moreover, to the extent provided by the Naval Agreement, and thus endanger the successful execution of his intentions and plans? Even the most malevolent person cannot earnestly maintain that the naval power granted Germany by this agreement was even remotely sufficient for a war of aggression; that has been clearly established by the evidence in this trial. Through this agreement Hitler actually deprived himself of the possibility of creating a navy sufficiently powerful to wage a war of aggression. It is clear that any considerable transgression of the agreed ratio of the two navies, which, as things were, could under no circumstances and by no means have been kept secret, would beyond doubt have induced England immediately either to increase her own navy accordingly, or to obstruct this German intention by force, as she had the power to do at any time. From whatever point of view one may look at this Naval Agreement, nothing can alter the fact that it was and is an unshakeable proof of the absolute honesty and sincerity of the repeated declarations of Germany's will for peace, an irrefutable proof against the presence of any, even the most secret warlike designs or plans of German foreign policy and, therefore, of its leader, the defendant von Neurath.

In France this Naval Agreement met with general opposition. It was regarded as an arbitrary act on the part of England, a departure from the common line which still found expression in the resolution of the League of Nations, a departure, moreover, which was bound to interfere with French plans. So France was very reluctant and negative in her attitude towards the negotiations which England had begun with the aim of concluding a general air pact, and which ran parallel with the negotiations for the Naval Agreement. Hitler's speech of 21st May, 1935, had also been a cause for these negotiations, because in it, Hitler, referring to the London communique, had also offered to take part in an agreement for the limitation of air armament, and the German Government, taking up the English suggestion, actually presented a draft for such an air pact on 29th May, 1935. But talks of nearly three months' duration between the English and French Governments were necessary before England succeeded in inducing France to consent even to participate in these negotiations. This consent, however, was in reality not a consent at all because, among other things, it was dependent on the condition that the negotiations for this air pact must keep pace with the negotiations for the Eastern Treaty, and since this treaty had at that time to be rejected by Germany for reasons of her own security, as has already been mentioned, it was clear that the French condition would block the way to successful negotiations from the very beginning.

[Page 300]

When the Soviet-sponsored Comintern congress met in Moscow on 25th July, 31935, and it became quite clear that the Comintern's aim was world-revolution, Germany's opposition - as will be understood - only stiffened.

It could not be surprising that on the 16th September, 1935, the defendant von Neurath informed the English Ambassador that the German Foreign Office did not consider that an answer to the memorandum of the British Government of 5th August, 1935, would be opportune; that was the memorandum which had demanded answers to a number of French questions hardly connected with the air pact. Besides, the conflict between Italy and Abyssinia had already cast its shadows, which alone were sufficient to suspend further negotiations for the air pact. For how could a political agreement between the five powers of the Locarno Treaty be possible - and the German Foreign Office very rightly pointed this out - if co-operation between these powers was in a state of dissolution and if some of these powers were even facing each other with armed forces. On 7th September, 1935, as is known, the British Home Fleet set out for the Mediterranean, and negotiations between England and France for the application of sanctions against Italy were in full swing. On 3rd October, 1935, war broke out between Italy and Abyssinia.

German foreign policy succeeded in keeping out of the events which now followed in Africa and the efforts of the powers to apply sanctions against Italy. But nevertheless these events proved of importance for German foreign policy; because they prepared, and especially the question of sanctions prepared a new constellation of powers, which on the one hand led to a closer union between England and France and the adoption by England of France's point of view, and on the other hand, brought Germany, again defamed by the resolution of the League of Nations of 17th April, 1935, naturally closer together with Italy, who was also defamed by the sanctions applied against her.

These sanctions at the same time, logically enough, resulted in the dissolution of the Locarno Treaty, for it was quite impossible to consider a treaty as still justified in its existence if its participants were opposed to one another in such a hostile way that the danger of warlike actions was always present.

The efforts of the French Government, already begun in its note of 10th September, 1935, to involve and draw England also into the net of its pacts and their obligations, clearly showed the tendency of French policy, and only confirmed German statesmen in their conviction that France was consistently following its policy of encirclement which was regarded as a menace to Germany. But Germany's leaders and the defendant von Neurath were still reluctant to draw the consequences from this state of affairs and to take the absolutely essential step for the most primitive needs of Germany's security. German foreign policy, in its unshakeable desire for peace and its readiness to negotiate, was still hoping that an agreement could be reached, that France would abandon its course, and that a really honest and sincere understanding with France could be reached. This hope, however, was soon to prove a delusion. On 16th January, 1936, the French Foreign Minister Laval announced that, after his return from Geneva, at the beginning of February, he would ask the French Parliament to ratify the pact of assistance concluded with Russia. And at about the same time the defendant won Neurath heard from reliable sources that the French General Staff had worked out military plans for an attack on Germany, providing for the advance of French troops from the Rhineland along the line of the river Main, and for a link with the Russian Armies through Czechoslovakia. This proved, even to the most nave, the offensive character of the Franco-Russian pact, and there was even less room for doubt, if one took into consideration the negotiations which took place inside and outside the French Chamber before the ratification of the Pact. For even in France, opposition to this pact, specifically on account of its offensive character, was not small. The French veterans of the first world war headed the opposition: The Union Nationale des Combatants declared, in a resolution of 8th February, 1936, that this pact contained more certainties of war than possibilities of peace. And

[Page 301]

the speech of deputy Montigny, in the French Chamber, on 13th February, 1936, was a single flaming protest; this is contained in my Document Book IV, No. 107. The pact, Montigny said, only widened the breach between France and Germany, and Germany must more than ever gain the impression that she is being encircled, if a party dependent on Moscow, like the Communist Party, followed the policy of Delcasse, the policy of revenge and the policy of the former Russo- French pact; the greatest danger of war would arise, if France were to convey the impression that she enjoyed the secret protection of Moscow. Even the German Government made a last attempt to dissuade France from ratifying the pact. In the interview which he gave to Bertrand de Jouvenell, the correspondent of the French newspaper Paris Midi, on 21st February, 1936 - Document Book IV, No. 108 - Hitler once again held out his hand to the French people for an understanding, for lasting peace and for friendship; "I want to prove to my people", Hitler said, "that the idea of hereditary enmity between France and Germany is a nonsensical idea." And in that interview, Hitler once and for all disposed of the continual references to his book Mein Kampf, which were being made at that time just as much as today in this courtroom, when he said: "When I wrote this book I was in prison. At that time French troops occupied the Ruhr, it was a moment of greatest tension. Yes, we were enemies, and I stood by my country as I was bound to do, just as I stood by my country against yours, when I spent four and a half years in the trenches. I should despise myself if in the event of a conflict I had not considered myself a German first and foremost. But today there is no longer any reason for a conflict. You would like me to correct my book, as a writer would do. But I am not a writer, I am a politician. I make my corrections in my foreign policy which is directed towards an understanding with France. If I achieve this German-French understanding, it will be a worth-while correction." In the same interview, however, Hitler drew attention quite clearly to the inevitable consequences of the Franco-Russian pact: "My personal efforts for such an understanding will never cease. But this more than regrettable pact would, in fact, create a new situation. Are you not conscious, France, of what you are doing? You are allowing yourself to be drawn into the diplomatic game of a power which is only interested in causing confusion among the great European nations, a state of affairs from which this power alone will derive an advantage. One must not lose sight of the fact that Soviet Russia is a political factor with an explosive revolutionary idea and gigantic armaments."

He concluded the interview by emphasizing again that France could, if she wanted, end this alleged German danger for good, because the German people had complete confidence in him, its leader, and he, the leader, desired friendship with France. That Hitler was honest and sincere in these declarations has been proved by the evidence of the trial.

But it was all in vain. The French Government could no longer be moved to abandon its rigid attitude, and on 27th February, 1936, the French Chamber in spite of all warnings voted to ratify the pact.

The die was cast. On 7th March, 1936, German troops again marched into their old garrisons in the Rhineland Zone, demilitarised until then; the German Reich restored its full sovereignty over the entire territory of the Reich; the last of the barriers of the Versailles Treaty restricting this full sovereignty had fallen.

This reinstatement of the full sovereignty of the Reich over the Rhineland, however, was of importance for a reason which, from the standpoint of existence of the German State and nation, by far surpassed the political and prestige significance of this step, and which was also the sole and therefore the more pressing cause for the grave decision of the German Government. This reason was the security of the Reich. As long as the Rhineland was demilitarised, not only one of the most valuable and most important provinces but the Reich itself, and especially its life source, the Ruhr territory, was defenceless against any military attack from the West. The only protection for Germany against this terrible latent danger

[Page 302]

was the Locarno Treaty of 1925, which was guaranteed by Great Britain and Italy, and in which France and Belgium, on the one hand, and Germany on the other hand, undertook not to wage war against each other.

Therefore, for the German Reich, if it was in future to accept the vulnerability of its western frontier in the form of a demilitarised Rhineland, it was a matter of life and death that the protection which this treaty afforded should not be falsified. But the meaning of this treaty and its essence, the protection of Germany, were, in fact, falsified at the moment when the political conditions and constellations, which had existed at the time of the conclusion of the treaty, changed fundamentally.

When the Locarno Treaty was concluded, political conditions in Europe, and also in Germany, were governed and determined solely by the four powers, England, France, Italy and Germany, acting in unison. And, therefore, the men who made the Locarno Treaty for Germany could legitimately rely on the faithfulness to this treaty of France and Belgium as sufficient protection. These circumstances, however, ceased to exist and therefore the meaning and essence of this treaty, and with it the conditions for the protection of Germany, were bound to change and be falsified, when France altered this political relationship in Europe fundamentally by concluding her pact of assistance with Russia, and thereby creating a situation which frustrated the aim and purpose of the Locarno Treaty, namely, to give Germany protection against the permanent danger arising from the demilitarisation of the Rhineland.

The political constellation of Europe had been completely changed, indeed reversed, by this pact, because the world's greatest military power, which was moreover at that time openly revolutionary-minded, had now entered the political arena. In the face of the obscure situation in the East, amply filled with the seeds of a conflict, the pact could easily result in the possibility of France, in view of her obligations towards Russia, being drawn into a war against Germany, and attacking Germany who might be involved in a conflict in the East.

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