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 8 of 11)


[Page 320]

Moreover it is also due to the defendant's personal intervention that in 1941 the order Hitler issued at Frank's and Himmler's instigation for the removal and arrest of the then Czech Prime Minister, General Elias, was rescinded. Only after he had left was Elias arrested by Heydrich and later condemned to death by the People's Court.

Definitely wrong is the allegation of the Czech witness Bienert that the defendant had arranged for the transportation of Czech workers into the Reich, that is that he deported Czech workers by force into Germany. It is, on the contrary, true that, during the whole term of office of the defendant, not a single Czech worker was deported by force to Germany.

Until 27th September, 1941, no compulsory deportation of labourers had yet taken place in any territory occupied by Germany. That happened later. But many Czech labourers voluntarily and gladly went to the Reich and accepted jobs there, as owing to the established currency exchange rate and to higher wages they earned much more there than in Prague, and could send a great deal of their earnings to their relatives in the Protectorate.

If the Czech prosecution wants further to charge the defendant with the sending by the Gestapo of arrested persons to concentration camps, and with the ill-treatment of those individuals there, it must be stated with the utmost precision that until 27th September, 1941, the end of the official activity of the defendant in the Protectorate, not a single concentration camp existed in the Protectorate. They were all established only after his departure under his successor. The decree, too, concerning protective and preventive custody, with which the Czech prosecution apparently wishes to charge him, was issued only after his departure, on 9th March, 1942; as shown by, the copy annexed to the Czech report (USSR 60).

Lastly, as regards the charges of the Indictment concerning the alleged measures taken by the defendant against the Jews, on this point, too, the representation of the Indictment does not correspond to the facts, and is shown to be erroneous on closer examination of the documents submitted by the prosecution itself.

Of the total of twenty-one decrees contained in the British Document Book 12-B, only four were signed by the defendant himself, six were issued by the Reich Ministry direct, ten by State Secretary Frank, or his direct subordinate, Dr. von Burgsdorff, and one by the Czech State President, Hacha.

The decree signed by Herr von Neurath himself on 21st June, 1939, which contained nothing but the introduction of regulations valid for the entire German Reich concerning treatment of Jewish property in the Protectorate (which, since

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16th March, 1939, was also a part of the German Reich) had been laid down for the defendant by Berlin when he assumed office. The fact, however, that it was published, three months later, proves the correctness of his statement, that he wanted to give the Jews time to prepare themselves for the introduction of the Jewish legislation as in force throughout the Reich. Its postponement to that day was expressly in the interests of the Jews.

The second decree issued by the defendant himself on 16th September, 1940, merely prescribed an obligation to declare securities, i.e., mortgages, which were Jewish property, and corresponded to the various decrees of the same or similar kind issued in the German Reich too, and applicable to all German nationals.

The third decree, issued and signed by himself, of 5th March, 1940, as well as the fourth, of 14th September, 1940, as clearly shown by their contents, aimed at making possible and facilitating Jewish emigration which the course of events in the Reich had made inevitable. Both decrees had accordingly been issued in the interests of the Jews themselves, and prove that the defendant had no anti-Semitic views.

All the documents submitted by me which refer to this matter, among others the newspaper report concerning the boycott of the Jews in the spring of 1933 - Document Book 1, No. 9 - and the submitted depositions of witnesses, show that he did not approve of the measures taken against the Jews, particularly measures of violence, but opposed them. As shown especially by the deposition of the witness, Dr. Kopke, such measures would have been in contradiction to his completely Christian and human attitude and ideology. It is confirmed that until his departure from Prague not a single synagogue had been closed, and that no religious restrictions against the Jews had been decreed. It does not need any particular proof to show that the defendant cannot be made responsible for the six ordinances issued by the Reich Ministry of the Interior. But neither does he bear any responsibility for the decrees signed by Frank and by Herr von Burgsdorff, in view of the independent position of State Secretary Frank and the competence of the police concerning all Jewish matters, which I have described. In opposition to the assertions of the indictment it must be particularly emphasized that, according to his own sworn deposition, no, persecution of the Jews occurred during his entire tenure of office.

His aforementioned human and Christian attitude and ideology makes the assertions in the Czech report of 4th September, 1945, concerning the alleged hostility of the defendant to the Church, appear as hardly likely.

It is true that the Czech Indictment of 14th November, 1945, does not make this report the object of an accusation, but, nevertheless, I should like to speak about it briefly. It is proved by evidence that the relations between Herr von Neurath and the Archbishop of Prague were very good, even friendly, and that the latter explicitly thanked the defendant for his support of the Churches. This would certainly not have been the case if he had been opposed to the Church or if he had suppressed the Churches, their organizations and clergy or persecuted them in any way. It is certainly not an extraordinary occurrence that there may have been differences in official matters, as obviously was the case according to the letter of the Archbishop submitted by the prosecution; State and Church always have had differences with one another at all times and in all countries - but this cannot under any circumstances be construed as implying, on the defendant's side, a policy opposed to the Church. It may be that members of the clergy were arrested, but, in the first place, such arrests were ordered not by the defendant but by the police, who were not under his control and secondly - if the defendant knew of them at all - not on account of any Church activity, but because of political intrigue. Neither is it clear from the mentioned Czech report whether the alleged actions against the Church, its organizations and clergy actually took place during the defendant's tenure of office. The evidence has shown that he did not decree any anti-ecclesias-

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tical or anti-religious measures. Pilgrimages to the Czech religious shrines, for example, were especially permitted by him.

At this point I would also like to emphasize that the defendant was not guilty of injuring Czech national feeling in any way. Contrary to the assertion of the prosecution, he did not destroy or close any Masaryk houses, as the prosecution would like to charge against him. As far as any Masaryk houses were closed, the SS and the police, which were not under his jurisdiction, are exclusively responsible. His attitude towards the Czech national feeling is best illustrated by the fact that he especially permitted the customary deposition of wreaths at the Masaryk monuments.

Nor did the defendant take measures hostile to culture, in spite of all efforts made in that direction by radical elements. Czech theatre life was not touched and remained free, as well as Czech literature, which was not suppressed or encroached upon, with the exception, of course, that anything of an anti-German or inciting character was prohibited. Also the Press - which, incidentally, was not controlled or censored by him, but by the Reich Ministry for Propaganda - was not submitted to any other limitations than the German Press, as the defendant's efforts altogether were directed towards conserving and encouraging Czech national and cultural life in its characteristic quality and independence. I believe it is not necessary for me to go still further into details about that subject, and that I can confine myself to referring to the defendant's own statements and the statements of the German witnesses about this.

The testimony of these witnesses shows clearly with what difficulties and opposition on the part of certain radical circles and authorities, not least on the part of his own State Secretary Frank, he had to contend in these efforts of his and in his general policy towards the Czech people.

If one wants to summarize his official activities, one may say that his entire life in Prague was one long struggle, a struggle against the forces inspired and led by Himmler, a struggle which was all the more difficult because he did not actually possess full powers in the Protectorate, and because the offices and authorities which were the most important and influential in the field of home politics, the entire police and the Gestapo, were not subordinate to him. Nevertheless, he did not abandon this struggle, and never grew tired of protesting to Hitler again and again and demanding redress, in many cases successfully, in others not. He fought up to the very end, he did not allow failures to discourage him and he remained faithful to his policy of reconciliation and compromise, of pacification and conservation of the Czech people and of its national characteristics. And when here again he was forced to recognize, in the autumn of 1941, that to continue his fight was hopeless, that Himmler's influence on Hitler was greater than his own and that Hitler had now decided to change over to a policy of force and terror and to send Heydrich to Prague for this purpose - Heydrich, who was known as a bloodhound - he immediately, just as in the winter of 1937/38 as Minister of Foreign Affairs, saw the consequences, resigned his post, left Prague, and retired to private life for good.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps this would be a convenient time to recess.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit in open session on Saturday morning until one o'clock.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: What impression this resignation created on the Czech people, even the circles most hostile to Germany, and what interpretation was put on it, appears with a clarity that can hardly be surpassed from the Czech report - USSR 60 - which was truly not dictated by pro- German sentiments or love for my client - and which characterised this departure of my client as a "gehoriger Schlag" in the German text, "a heavy blow" in the English text,

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thereby actually disavowing its own accusations against Herr von Neurath. And indeed I think I have proved that, while discharging the duties of his office, the defendant was not personally guilty of a single crime against humanity punishable under the Charter of this Tribunal, and only such crime could, after all, be considered here.

And now the basic question of this trial arises: Did the defendant become guilty, that is, guilty in a manner punishable under the Charter, of supporting or aiding Hitler and his accomplices in the commission of their crimes by accepting the office of Reich Protector and by keeping it, in spite of the war launched by Hitler a few months after his assumption of this office, and in spite of the events in November, 1939, and several other occurrences? The prosecution answers this question in the affirmative. But can an objective impartial judgement of matters really lead to this affirmative answer?

One thing should be absolutely certain, after what we have heard here from the defendant himself, from the witnesses whom I questioned on the subject, and from the affidavits which I presented.

Herr von Neurath was not moved by external or material reasons to enter and remain in Hitler's Government as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Such reasons were similarly not responsible for his acceptance of the post of Reich Protector. This is already proved by the fact that he declined the donation which Hitler intended to present to him on his 70th birthday in 1943; and when this was not practicable, he had this donation placed in his bank, as I have proved on the basis of the letter from his bank - Document Book V, Nos. 160 and 161 - and did not touch one penny of it.

And how little the supposedly illustrious position of the Reich Protector attracted or suited him is clearly evident from his letter of 14th October, 1939, to the witness Dr. Kopke - Document Book V, No. 16 - in which he calls it and compares it to a prison.

In both cases, as has been proved not only by the defendant's own statements, but also by the statements of all the witnesses and documents which I have introduced, the motive or the reason for the acceptance of and perseverance in his position was not by any chance his approval of the ideologies of the Nazi regime with all its methods and his wish to support them; but on the contrary, his high ethical and moral convictions which sprang from his deep sense of responsibility as a human being and as a statesman towards his people. Since he was not in the position and had not the power to remove Hitler and the Nazi regime, he considered it his duty, at least in a limited way, within the compass and limits of his power and in the sphere entrusted to his direction, to fight the Nazi tendencies which he also despised, and to prevent their materialisation, as far as his own strength permitted.

Can one, I ask, really reproach Herr von Neurath for doing this, can one condemn him, because the task he had assumed with a sense of moral duty and a consciousness of responsibility was beyond his strength and he failed in it?

May I ask you, your Honours, to free yourselves of all juridical and political prejudices, of the retrospective view of things with its surely very unreliable deductions, and to penetrate into the soul of this man, his world of thoughts and his conception of life. Brought up in a home inspired by Christian, humane and respectable ideas, and also by a sense of responsibility towards the German people, he had grown up and reached the age of 60 in a civil service career under the various governments, first under the Imperial Government, then under the changing governments of the Republic. Without paying attention to their political trends, without asking whether they were conservative, democratic or social democratic, he had served them and had carried out the tasks assigned to him in his sphere of work. As a diplomat, as an official of the Reich's Foreign

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Service, the field of internal politics was completely remote from him. He considered it his sole duty to serve his people as such, regardless of the government in office and its inner political attitude.

And thus, much against his personal wishes, upon Hindenburg's call in the hour of distress, he took over the Foreign Ministry and thereby entered the Government of the Reich and remained in it also after Hitler was appointed, not as the representative of any particular political party, but as Hindenburg's special confidant in the field of foreign politics. He was the guarantor of the Reich's peace policy, the "rocher de bronze" in this field.

His entire education, his sense of responsibility towards his people, would not permit him to do anything else than to remain at his post when he was drawn into the whirl and dynamics of the National Socialist movement and then necessarily saw how this movement was turning in a direction and making use of means which he, too, could only condemn.

But just as their sense of responsibility and duty to their own people had driven other respectable and patriotic Germans to the decision to remove Hitler and the Nazi regime by force, so it was with the defendant whose sense of responsibility and duty, not only towards himself, but also towards his people, forced him to set aside his personal abhorrence of the immorality of this regime and, by remaining in office and continuing to conduct its affairs according to his own principles, to fight actively against this immorality and thus at least keep it away from the department under his control and protect the German people from this immorality of the Nazi regime and its consequences, namely, war, as long as he was able to do so.

And then, a year and a half after his resignation, when the call came to him again to accept a position, this time as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and Hitler declared to him that he had expressly selected him for this position because he considered him the only suitable person to carry out his intended policy of real reconciliation of the Czech people with the new conditions and with the German people, the very same sense of duty and responsibility forced him to follow this call, for was it not natural for him to deduce from the fact that Hitler - in spite of knowing his opposition to the National Socialist regime, its policies and its methods - desired to entrust him with this task, and that Hitler really and honestly meant to effect a reconciliation and appeasement of the Czech people?

Here he was confronted with a task the achievement of which would not only be of the highest benefit to his own, but also to the Czech nation, a task which not only served for the reconciliation of two nations, but also for the ideal of humanity and Christian brotherly love, as well as for the protection of the Czech people from the pernicious methods of the Nazi regime.

And now I ask: Is it not at least just as moral and ethical to pledge one's self and one's person for such a goal, to work actively, if only to a limited extent, against this regime, which one has recognized and repudiated as immoral and corrupt, through an apparent, if only outwardly apparent, co-operation, to prevent the use of the methods of this system, and thereby to save innocent people from misery and death, than to withdraw grumblingly out of personal aversion and to look on inactive while this regime rages against humanity without restraint?

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