The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/07/13

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Did you personally take part in the Munich conference
which then took place?

A. Yes. In view of Hitler's irritated frame of mind, I was
concerned about the course of the conference and I told him
that I considered it expedient that I should go to Munich
too, since I knew the foreign representatives personally,
and for that reason could serve as mediator. When he agreed,
Goering invited me to come along in his special train.
Later, in the course of the long session, I frequently
talked to the three persons and to Hitler and tried to
mediate in the differences which arose.

Mr. Chamberlain, at the end of this talk, asked me to
arrange a talk with the Fuehrer alone, without Ribbentrop,
on the next day, since he would like to make a new
suggestion. The Fuehrer did not want this at first, but
finally I persuaded him. At this talk, an advisory agreement
was reached between England and Germany, which France later
joined. Chamberlain, who was living at the same hotel as I,
showed me this agreement with great joy after the talk, and
I also was glad to see it. I hoped that Anglo-German
relations, which had suffered in the Godesberg and
Berchtesgaden meetings, might be brought back to normality
by this agreement and that the way would be opened for
further conferences. As in the summer of '37, Chamberlain
invited me to visit him in England. I immediately told him
that I did not believe that Hitler, who had forbidden me to
go to England in the summer of '37, would now give his
approval, especially since I was no longer Foreign Minister.
In January, 1938, the English Ambassador repeated the
invitation, but I had to tell him that I had had no
opportunity to obtain Hitler's approval.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I
should like to submit Document 21 in my document book. It is
a letter of the French Ambassador at that time, Francois
Poncet, dated 18th October, 1938, a few weeks after the
Munich conference. I should like to quote only two sentences
from it.

                                                  [Page 133]

  "But of the two of us, it is I who have contracted the
  greater debt of gratitude. I have always had from you,
  even at the most delicate moments, the most kind, the
  most considerate and the most confident reception. You
  made a difficult task easy for me. I shall never forget
  what I owe you."

Mr. President, at this point I should like to submit a
letter from the French Ambassador Poncet, which was received
only a few days ago, which I mentioned with the same request
at the beginning of my case. I asked that the French
Ambassador be called as a witness, and in answer a letter
from the Ambassador, dated 7th June, was sent to the French
prosecution, a copy of which I received through the General
Secretary's office last week - I believe Thursday or Friday.

In spite of the fact that this letter is not in the
prescribed form of an affidavit but is a private letter to
the prosecution, I would ask that you honour it as if it
were in the form of an affidavit. The original of this
letter is in the possession of the French prosecution and
the French prosecution has promised to submit the original
on the request of the Tribunal. I take the liberty to submit
the certified copy.

THE PRESIDENT: The original document should be presented to
the Tribunal now, or as soon as it conveniently can be done.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The day before yesterday I talked to a
member of the French prosecution who said they did not have
it at the moment. I do not know where they have it.
Therefore, I ask that it be submitted; otherwise I would
already have submitted it.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, but it must be submitted as soon
as possible.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: You wish to offer it in evidence, do you?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: What number is it?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: 162 ...

THE PRESIDENT: There is no objection, I take it?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: No objection, my Lord.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: This letter reads - if I may quote at
least one brief passage -

THE PRESIDENT: You gave it a number, did you?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No. 162.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Go on.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

  "He" - that is Herr von Neurath - "never aggravated the
  incidents; on the contrary, he always sought a personal
  and peaceful solution. He made every effort to facilitate
  the task of the foreign diplomats in the German capital.
  They, like myself, were grateful to him. I do not doubt
  that he often pointed out to Hitler the dangers to which
  he was exposing Germany by the excesses of his regime,
  and that he let him hear the voice of prudence and
  moderation."

Now I come to another subject and I should like to present
the following:

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. The documents presented by the prosecution show that
during your period in office as Reich Foreign Minister, a
representative of the Foreign Office took part in sessions
of the Reich Defence Council, and by the Reich Defence Law
of 1938, you, as President of the Secret Cabinet, were a
member of this Reich Defence Council.

Will you comment on this?

A. Neither as Reich Foreign Minister nor as President of the
Secret Cabinet did I have anything to do with the affairs of
the Reich Defence Council. I never took part in any session
or talk. As has been stated here, all ministries from the

                                                  [Page 134]

time before 1933 had so-called Reich defence experts who
were to deal with inter-ministerial questions resulting from
possible mobilization in case of a defensive war. As Dr.
Schacht has already testified, the Reich Defence Council of
1935 was nothing but the legalisation of a committee which
had existed before 1933.

Q. In the existence of such a committee or council for Reich
defence, did you see signs of preparation for a war of
aggression?

A. No, in no way. The designation clearly indicates that it
had to do with preparations for the defence of the Reich
against attack, and not preparations for attack. Moreover, I
know that in France, as well as in England, such
arrangements had existed for a long time.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to submit
Document 78, which is on Page 213 of my Document Book 3. It
is an excerpt from a statement made by the French War
Minister, Petain, on 6th June, 1934, before the Army
Commission of the French Chamber, which mentions the
necessity of a defence council or committee.

THE PRESIDENT: Just wait a minute. The Tribunal does not
think that any evidence that other countries had other
organizations is really relevant to this case.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. The prosecution asserts that Hitler awarded you more
honours than some of the Nazi leaders themselves, and
concludes that you were especially close to Hitler. Will you
please comment on this.

A. That is a rather remarkable assumption. It was clear
that, as the oldest minister, who had served the State for
over forty years, Hitler could not overlook me in giving
honours and honorary titles, but they were limited to what
is customary for the holders of high State positions.

Q. I should like to name the individual awards on which a
charge is made against you. You held the Order of the German
Eagle and the War Merit Cross First Class.

A. Yes. The Order of the German Eagle was instituted in 1937
and was to be awarded only to foreigners. It would, however,
have had no great value abroad but would have been
considered more a type of special order, such as the
colonial order, if no German had held it. For that reason,
in my capacity as Foreign Minister, immediately when the
order was instituted Hitler gave me the Grand Cross of the
order and thus also heightened the value of this order ....

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, is it not sufficient
for the defendant to have said that it was usual to give
these titles? It is not necessary for us to investigate the
particular merits of the particular order, is it? It seems
to me to be very remote.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I mentioned it only
because the prosecution also brought it out especially.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. A further charge is made by the prosecution that on 30th
January, 1937, in that well-known cabinet meeting, you
received the Golden Party insignia from Hitler and thus
became a member of the Nazi Party. What about that?

A. As to the way in which this was awarded, Herr Schacht as
well as Raeder has testified here. I was not a member of any
party. Between 1933 and 1937 I had several times been
requested to join the Party but had refused. My attitude
toward the Party was generally known. For that reason I was
repeatedly attacked by the Party. As to the reason why this
insignia was awarded on 30th January, 1937, to various
members of the Cabinet and also to generals who were not
allowed to become members of the Party at all, I believe
that has been described in sufficient detail and that I need
not go into it again.

                                                  [Page 135]

Q. Then, surprisingly, Hitler also made you an honorary
Obergruppenfuehrer of the SS.

A. Yes, that was a complete surprise to me. In September,
1937, Mussolini had announced his visit to Germany. For the
days just before this visit I was not in Berlin. When I
returned in the morning I found my tailor at the entrance of
my house with the uniform of an SS Gruppenfuehrer. I asked
him what that meant. He told me the Reich Chancellor had
instructed him to make me a uniform immediately. I then went
to Hitler and asked him why he had done this. He said he
wanted all the men who were to be present at the reception
of Mussolini to be in uniform. I told him that was not very
agreeable to me and I had to explain that in no case would I
be subordinate to Himmler and I did not want to have
anything to do with the SS. Hitler assured me solemnly that
this would not be asked of me, that I need have no
obligation to the SS, and this actually did not happen.
Moreover, I had no power to issue orders, and my later
appointment as Obergruppenfuehrer was apparently made in the
course of general promotions without any special emphasis.

Q. Did you wear this uniform at all?

A. Only twice as far as I can recall; at the reception of
Mussolini and then when in 1938 I was sent to Ankara to the
funeral of Kemal Pasha. On official occasions I always wore
the uniform of a civil servant without any insignia.

Q. On your seventieth birthday, on 2nd February, 1943 you
received congratulations and other expressions of
appreciation of yourself and your activities from various
sources. You were congratulated, amongst others, by Hitler
and you received, besides, a cheque for 250,000 marks. Will
you tell us what was the significance of this donation, if
one may call it that.

A. The American Prosecutor recently mentioned this gift.
Only he forgot to say that I refused it. The events were as
follows:

On the day of my seventieth birthday, in the morning, a
deputy of Hitler called on me and brought me a
congratulatory letter from Hitler and an oil painting by a
young German painter, showing an Italian landscape. The
letter enclosed a cheque for 250,000 marks. I was painfully
surprised and immediately told the envoy I considered this
so-called donation an insult - I am not a lackey whom one
pays with a tip - and told him he should take the cheque
back with him. He said he was not authorized to do so. The
next morning I went to the Reich Finance Minister to give
him the cheque for the Reich treasury. He said that for
formal reasons - I believe because the cheque was on a
special account of Hitler's - he could not accept it. At his
advice I turned the cheque over to the Reich Credit
Association to a special account and informed the competent
finance office in writing. I never touched one penny of this
sum. The painting, the value of which was not especially
great, I did not refuse, because it was entirely within the
limits of a normal birthday gift and sending it back would
have been considered a deliberate insult.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I ask permission to
submit two letters of the Reich Credit Association in this
connection which I received from them on Saturday, upon my
request. They contain confirmation that this sum of 250,000
marks in its full extent, plus the interest which has
accumulated, is still today in a special account of the
Reich Credit Association. This is proof that Herr von
Neurath did not, in fact, withdraw a penny of this so-called
donation, or use it in any other way.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give us the number of it?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: 160 and 161.

Mr. President, in my haste I have only been able to have the
English translation made in my office. The French and
Russian translations will be given to the French and Soviet
prosecution in the next few days. As I have said, I received
it myself only on Saturday afternoon.

                                                  [Page 136]

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. The further charge is made against you that in the
conservative circles of Germany you worked as a sort of
member of a fifth column to induce them to reconcile
themselves with and agree to the National Socialist regime,
because the fact that you remained in the Government would
be considered an example by them. What have you to say about
this?

A. That statement is nonsense because it was known
throughout Germany and abroad that I was no National
Socialist but that rather I fought against National
Socialist excesses against the Church and the Jews and that,
in addition, I hindered any policy which endangered peace.
This was clearly shown by my dismissal in February, 1938,
and the general consternation about this was not publicly
expressed in the German Press only because there was no
Press available for this. It is therefore completely absurd
that these conservative circles would have assumed that I
was with all my heart with the Nazis, as the Indictment
says. Other countries knew this just as well and saw in me
an obstacle to Nazi policy. That I was not regarded as a
blind adherent to Nazi theories, as is stated in the
Indictment, is best known to the foreign diplomats in Berlin
as they could closely observe my constant struggle against
the Party.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to submit in this
connection an excerpt from the magazine Archiv, Number 27,
and an excerpt from an article in the Pester Lloyd,
containing the speech which the dean of the Berlin
diplomatic corps made in the name of the whole diplomatic
corps to Herr von Neurath on his birthday on 2nd February,
1938. Both documents are contained in my Document Book 4,
No. 127, and in Document Book 1, No. 18.

With this I have finished the part dealing with foreign
politics, and the personal points in the charge against Herr
von Neurath. Now I come to the second aspect of the charge,
your activity as Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

After the settlement of the Sudeten crisis you had withdrawn
completely from political life; is that true?

A. Yes. I was in Berlin very seldom. For the most part I was
on my estate in Wurttemberg or in the mountains.

Q. In September, 1939, were you in Berlin, and did you have
any knowledge of Hitler's plans for an invasion of
Czechoslovakia?

A. You mean in the late winter of 1939?

In the late winter, yes.

No, I had kept aloof. The differences between Germany,
Czechoslovakia ...

THE PRESIDENT: September, 1939?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: That was my mistake. I meant in the
late winter.

THE PRESIDENT: Of 1938, you mean?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: 1939.

THE WITNESS: 1938-39.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In the late autumn of 1938.

THE WITNESS: The differences between us and Czechoslovakia
on the treatment of the Sudeten Germans by the Czechs had
been solved by the separation of the Sudetenland. The way to
friendly co-operation was somewhat smoothed out. One of the
focal points of danger for the peace of Europe had been
eliminated.


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