The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                                                  [Page 115]

HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SECOND DAY

MONDAY, 24th JUNE, 1946

CONSTANTIN VON NEURATH - Resumed

DIRECT EXAMINATION - Continued

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN (Counsel for defendant von Neurath):
Herr von Neurath, I have been told, and I heard it on the
radio, that yesterday apparently a mistake was made, perhaps
due to poor translation, regarding your activity from 1903 -
1914. Perhaps you can repeat your statement, for I, too,
believe that the Court misunderstood what you said.

A. It probably concerns my stay in London. From 1903 to 1907
I was in London, and after that I was in the Foreign Office
in Berlin.

Q. Then we will continue the presentation of your policy as
Foreign Minister. I should like to ask the following
questions:

The prosecution sees in the fact that during your period of
office as Foreign Minister in the spring of 1935, general
rearmament was begun, general military service was
introduced, and the Luftwaffe was created, the proof of your
guilt in the alleged conspiracy against peace. Will you
comment on this?

A. First, I should like to emphasize that there was no
question of war plans in Germany in this year and in the
following years. I am also perfectly convinced that at that
time neither Hitler nor his entourage had any aggressive
plans, or even considered any aggressive plans, for that
would not have been possible without my knowing about it.

Rearmament as such involves no threat to peace unless it is
decided to use the newly made weapons for purposes other
than defence. There was no such decision and no such
preparation at that time. The same charge of preparations
for aggressive war could be held against all the
neighbouring States of Germany who were rearming in
precisely -

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, Dr. Ludinghausen, this is
argument, not evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I must hear how things
appeared to him. Decisions for action can only be excused if
I explain -

THE PRESIDENT: No, we are not prepared to hear argument in
the course of evidence. It is evidence for him to say that
there were no plans made at that time for offensive action,
but it is argument to say that rearmament does not
necessarily involve offensive action. We do not desire to
hear argument at this stage.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Then please answer the question once more whether there
were in fact no plans to use the weapons created by
rearmament for any aggressive purposes or for other violent
action?

A. That is what I just said. I do not believe I need repeat
it.

Q. What reasons were there, what facts, which made the
situation of Germany appear particularly perilous?

                                                  [Page 116]

A. At that time Germany could not help feeling she was
encircled by her heavily armed neighbours. Russia and France
had concluded a mutual assistance pact which could only be
called a military alliance. It was immediately followed by a
similar treaty between Russia and Czechoslovakia. According
to her own statements, Russia had increased the peace-time
strength of her army by more than one half. How strong it
actually was could not be ascertained. In France, under the
leadership of Petain, efforts were being made to strengthen
the Army considerably. As early as 1934 Czechoslovakia had
introduced the two years' military service. On 1st March,
1935, France issued a new defence law, which also increased
the period of military service. This whole development,
which had come about in a few months, could only be
considered as an immediate threat. Germany could no longer
be a defenceless and inactive spectator. In view of these
facts the decision which Hitler then made to reintroduce
compulsory military service and gradually to build up an
army of thirty-six divisions was not an act which seriously
threatened the neighbouring countries, bound together by
alliances.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I
should like to ask you to take judicial notice of the
following documents in my document book:

Document 87, a document on the entry of the Soviet Union
into the League of Nations of 18th September, 1934, in
Document Book 3. Document 89, also in Document Book 3, is a
statement of the reporter of the Army Committee of the
French Chamber, of 23rd November, 1931, on the entente with
Russia. Document 91, again in Document Book 3, is the
Russian-French Protocol to the Eastern Pact negotiations of
5th December, 1934.

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I should like to say that
Document 89 has not been submitted to us as yet. Therefore,
it has not been possible to examine this document and to say
whether or not it is relevant.

THE PRESIDENT: When you get the book you will have the right
to object to the document, if necessary. Dr. von
Ludinghausen is only telling us what documents he contends
support the evidence which has just been given, that is all.
He is offering these documents in evidence, and as soon as
you get the book and can scrutinize the document, you will
have the opportunity of making an objection to its
admissibility.

M. DEBENEST: That is exactly the point, Mr. President. I
wished to reserve for myself the right to do that.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we agree with you.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Then comes Document 92, in Document
Book 3, the call to the Army made by the President of the
Czechoslovak Republic on 28th December, 1934.

Still in Document Book 3, Document 96 is the French
Government declaration of 15th March, 1935; Document 79 is a
report of the Czech Minister in Paris, Osusky, Of 15th June,
1934; Document 101 is the French-Russian Mutual Assistance
Pact of 2nd May, 1935; and Document 94 is an excerpt from
the speech of the French President, Flandin, to the French
Chamber on 5th February, 1935.

I ask you to take judicial notice of these documents.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Was Germany's decision to rearm intended to mean that she
would discontinue all further co-operation in international
efforts to limit general rearmament?

A. No, by no means. An English inquiry as to whether Germany
would be ready to continue to participate in general
disarmament negotiations in the same manner and to the same
extent as laid down in the so-called London Communique of
February, 1935, was immediately answered in the affirmative.

                                                  [Page 117]

On 18th March - that is, two days after the introduction of
military service - the Embassy in London was instructed to
resume negotiations and, in particular, to suggest an
agreement to limit the strength of the fleet.

In May of 1935 Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag, in
which he expounded a concrete German plan for peace. He
emphasized particularly the German will for peace, and again
declared himself willing to co-operate in any system of
international agreements for the maintenance of peace, even
collective agreements. The only condition he made - and this
he had always done - was the recognition of Germany's equal
rights. He also declared himself willing to rejoin the
League of Nations. By so doing he wanted to prove that
Germany, in spite of the conclusion of military alliances
which he felt to be a threat, and our own rearmament,
continued to desire peace.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I wish to ask the Tribunal to take
judicial notice of the following documents in my Document
Book 3:

Document 95, answer of the Reich Government of 15th
February, 1935, to the so-called London Communique.

Document 97, an excerpt from the appeal of the German Reich
Government of 16th March, 1935, for the reintroduction of
the German military service.

Document 98 is the communique of 26th March, 1935, on the
talk of the British Foreign Minister, Sir John Simon, and
the Lord Privy Seal, Eden, with the German Reich Government.

Document 102, communique of 15th May, 1935, on the speech of
Foreign Minister Laval in Moscow.

Document 104, Hitler's speech of 21st May, 1935, on the
Russian-French pact.

Document 105, the note of the Reich Government of 25th May,
1935, to the signatory powers of the Locarno Treaty.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Did the German efforts and willingness to negotiate have
any success?

A. Yes; they led to the conclusion of the first and only
agreement to limit armaments which was actually put into
effect on the basis of the German proposals by the signing
of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in June Of 1935. Of
course, I would have preferred it if the negotiations with
all countries concerning proposals for armament limitation
had been successful. Nevertheless, this agreement between
only two States was warmly welcomed by us as the first step
in this direction. We know that at least England held aloof
from the decision of the League of Nations, stating that
Germany had broken the Versailles Treaty by rearming. The
German step was thus recognized as justified.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to
ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of two documents
from my Document Book 3:

Document 106 is a statement by the First Lord of the
Admiralty, Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell, on the English radio,
on 19th June, 1935.

The second is Document 119, an excerpt from the statement of
the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty, Shakespeare,
in the House of Commons, on the occasion of the ratification
of the London Naval Agreement on 20th July, 1936.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Was German activity in the direction of disarmament
limited to the German-English Naval Agreement?

A. No; our willingness to co-operate in a positive way for
the limitation of armaments, which had been declared by us
on many occasions, also found expression in the negotiations
for disarmament in the air. Right from the outset, as early
as 1933, Hitler had stressed the importance of this point
for the maintenance of peace. Germany was ready to accept
any limitation, and even the complete abolition of air
armament, if it was done on a reciprocal basis. But only
England reacted to such suggestions. The difficulty was to
persuade France to participate in the negotiations. She did
this only after three months, through

                                                  [Page 118]

the efforts of England. But France stipulated conditions
which made it practically impossible for these negotiations
to succeed.

Apart from a general agreement embracing all European
States, special bi-lateral agreements were to be permitted.
In addition, the continuation of negotiations on air
armament was to be made dependent on negotiations concerning
the Eastern Pact. Germany could not participate in this
Eastern Pact, since she would have had to assume military
obligations, the outcome of which could not be foreseen.

Owing to this and the outbreak of the Italian-Abyssinian
war, which brought the differences among the Western Powers
into the open, the negotiations came to a standstill.

Q. One year later, in March, 1936, the Rhineland was
reoccupied by German troops. The prosecution sees in this a
breach of the Locarno Treaty and further proof of your
co-responsibility in the alleged conspiracy against peace.
Will you comment on this?

A. This assertion is completely untrue. There was no
decision or plan to wage aggressive war any more than there
had been the year before. The restoration of full
sovereignty in all parts of the Reich had no military
significance, but only political significance.

The occupation of the Rhineland was carried out with one
division only, and this fact alone shows that it had only a
purely symbolic character. It was clear that a great and
industrious people would not tolerate for ever such a
drastic limitation of its sovereignty as had been imposed by
the Versailles Treaty. It was simply a dynamic development
which the leaders of German foreign policy could not oppose.

Q. Did the reoccupation of the Rhineland take place
according to a plan which had been made some time
beforehand, or was the decision spontaneous?

A. It was one of those sudden decisions of Hitler which was
to be carried out within a few days.

Q. What were the events which led to this immediate
decision?

A. On 16th January, 1936, the French Foreign Minister,
Laval, announced that after his return from Geneva he would
present the Russian-French Pact to the French Chamber for
ratification. The fact that Hitler, in an interview with M.
de Jouvenel, the correspondent of the French paper Paris
Midi, while pointing out the dangers of this pact, once
again held out his hand to France in an attempt to bring
about an honourable and permanent understanding between the
two peoples was of no avail. I had previously discussed this
interview in detail with Hitler, and I received the definite
impression that he was absolutely serious in his desire for
a permanent reconciliation of the two peoples. But this
attempt also was in vain. The strong opposition to the pact
from large portions of the French people, under the
leadership of the Union Nationale des Combattants, and in
the parliament itself, could not prevent the French
Government from ratifying the pact. The voting took place on
27th February, 1936, in the French Chamber.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to ask the Tribunal to
take judicial notice of the following two documents from my
Document Book 4: The first is Document 108, Hitler's
interview with the correspondent of Paris Midi, M. de
Jouvenel, of 21st February, 1936. The second is Document
107, an excerpt from the speech of the Deputy Montigny in
the French Chamber on 13th February, 1936.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. On 7th March, 1936, by way of answer to the ratification
of this treaty, the German troops marched into the
demilitarised Rhineland zone. What considerations caused the
German Government to take this very serious step? In view of
the hostile attitude of the French, there was a danger that
this time the Western Powers would not be satisfied with
paper protests and resolutions by the League of Nations, but
would proceed by force of arms against this one-sided -

                                                  [Page 119]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, is this a question or a
statement?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: It is a question. I should like to
know the attitude of the Government at that time. If I may
make a comment, I must hear these explanations from the
defendant himself to clarify the decisions taken at that
time, for when, in my final address -

THE PRESIDENT: You were stating a number of facts. It is not
for you to state facts. It is your duty to ask the witness.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I did not want to state facts. I
wanted to know from the witness what considerations led to
the decision.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Will you please describe to us what considerations you
put forward at that time?

A. In my previous answers I have already stated why we saw
in the French-Russian Pact and in France's whole attitude a
most serious threat on the part of France. This accumulation
of power in French hands through the various mutual
assistance pacts could be directed only against Germany.
That was obvious. There was no other country in the world at
which it could be directed. In the event of hostilities - a
possibility which, in view of the whole situation, any
responsible government would have to reckon with - the
western border of Germany was completely open owing to the
demilitarisation of the Rhineland. This was not only a
discriminating provision of the Versailles Treaty but also
one which threatened Germany's security most. However, it
had become obsolete through the decision of 11th December,
1932, by the five Powers in Geneva.


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