The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that Goering did not know about it?

A. Perhaps Goering knew about it.

THE PRESIDENT: That is all. The defendant can return to the dock.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I ask permission to
call the first witness, the former Ministerial Director, and
head of the political section in the Foreign Ministry, Dr.
Koepke.

GERHARD KOEPKE, a witness, took the stand and testified as
follows:

BY THE PRESIDENT:

Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Gerhard Koepke.

Q. Will you repeat the oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will
speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

DIRECT EXAMINATION

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Dr. Koepke, how long have you known Herr von Neurath?

A. I have known Herr von Neurath for over forty years. His
career is well known. Therefore I can limit myself to
stating that we worked together as Vice-Consuls in London,
as Counsellors of Legation in the Foreign Office, and later

                                                  [Page 218]

when Herr von Neurath became Minister in 1932, until my
resignation in 1935. In the meantime, von Neurath was in
Copenhagen, Rome, London, and for some time at his home, and
finally in Prague. We met only occasionally when I was in
Berlin, and we kept up a comparatively lively correspondence
with each other as old friends. I myself was employed in the
Foreign Office during the entire period. From 1921 on, I was
head of the Legal Department, and from 1923 I was director
of the political, so-called Western Department, which I
directed until I left the service. I voluntarily tendered my
resignation at the end of 1935.

Q. What do you know about the attitude, the fundamental
attitude of Herr von Neurath on domestic and foreign policy,
but only in a general way?

A. In domestic politics, Herr von Neurath stood close to the
conservative circles, but he was never a member of the
Conservative Party. From this basic conservative attitude
and also because of his outstanding character, his devotion
to duty, and his reliability, he had the confidence of Reich
President von Hindenburg, and retained it without
interruption until the latter's death. Herr von Hindenburg
esteemed von Neurath as a prudent, moderate, reliable
diplomat. Men of other party leanings also had confidence in
von Neurath. I shall mention only the deceased Reich
President, Ebert, who recalled Neurath to office during his
term.

Q. What do you know about von Neurath's appointment as Reich
Foreign Minister in the summer of 1932?

A. The appointment of Herr von Neurath as Reich Foreign
Minister was based on a personal wish of President von
Hindenburg. Neurath did not become Foreign Minister within
the von Papen Cabinet, but as the special confidant of
President von Hindenburg.

Q. Then how did it happen that von Neurath remained as
Foreign Minister in the new Hitler Government?

A. Von Neurath did not participate as far as I know in the
negotiations with Hitler about the assumption of power. If I
can only rely on my memory, he was sick abed with a heart
disease during the decisive days, but he remained Foreign
Minister, again at the special wish of von Hindenburg.

Q. Can you tell us anything about the attitude, the
relationship of Neurath to Hitler?

A. I should like to remark by way of introduction that I
cannot testify on this subject from my own immediate
observation. I was never present at conferences which Herr
von Neurath had with Hitler. I myself never had any official
conversation with Hitler whatsoever. But, according to
Neurath's own description, and according to the information
which I received from other important personalities in the
course of time, I had the impression that, especially in the
first years, Hitler treated Heir von Neurath carefully and
politely. To what extent this was due to consideration of
the Reich President, whose regard for von Neurath was of
course known to Hitler, I cannot say. In any case, Neurath
was never actually in the confidence of Hitler and was not
in the small circle close to Hitler, the powerful men of the
Party. After the death of President von Hindenburg, von
Neurath remained because he had promised the Reich President
to do so. During the following period also, Neurath
repeatedly attempted to exercise his moderating and calming
influence on the Party. However, I know that as
disappointments and differences of opinion multiplied, Herr
von Neurath tried many times to break away from Hitler. In
this connection I can recall two occasions on which he wrote
offering his resignation, and he showed me one of these
letters which must have been dated from the beginning of the
year 1936. For at that time I had already resigned and
visited Herr von Neurath in a purely friendly and private
capacity.

Q. Now can you also give us a brief picture of Neurath's
attitude toward the National Socialist Party?

A. At first Herr von Neurath waited to see what the Party
and in particular its leading men would do. To my knowledge
he was personally acquainted with

                                                  [Page 219]

hardly any of these men, since, indeed, he had lived most of
the time abroad. Neurath was convinced that by reason of his
years of experience as an old diplomat, and his confidential
position with the Reich President, and the latter's
moderating influence, he would succeed in working in
accordance with his policy, which was directed toward
compromise and understanding.

Before me, and I believe also before his other colleagues,
Neurath frequently referred to the experiences of this sort
which he had had with Fascism. He occasionally said that
such revolutionary elements should be allowed to develop
quietly, that these hotheads would come to their senses if
they were given time and opportunity to gather experience
themselves in responsible positions.

Moreover, Neurath also shared the opinions of State
Secretary Bulow, the State Secretary of Reich Chancellor
Bruning, and protected him until his death against repeated
attempts of the Party to get rid of him.

Moreover, I should like to mention a small detail which was
very valuable to us in the office at the time. When State
Secretary Bulow, who was generally popular, died suddenly,
Neurath managed to get Hitler to participate personally in
the funeral at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The old
officials of the Foreign Office saw in that a good omen for
the strong position of our minister in relation to the
Party. This event, which in itself is perhaps unimportant,
happened exactly ten years ago today.

Q: As head of the Political Department of the Foreign
Office, you were one of Neurath's first co-workers, and can
surely tell us what was the dominant tendency of Neurath's
foreign policy.

A. Neurath's political attitude on the whole was, in
accordance with his whole character and his years of
experience in politics, inclined toward compromise, waiting,
negotiation. Extreme measures and attempts at solution by
violence did not suit von Neurath's temperament. Neurath was
neither a gambler nor a fighter by nature.

Q. Now I come to individual important foreign political
events which occurred during the period in which you worked
under Herr von Neurath and were head of the political
section.

In October, 1933 Germany left the disarmament conference and
the League of Nations. Now, I should like to ask you whether
this step of Germany's, leaving the conference and the
League of Nations, was based on any aggressive or
belligerent tendencies for the moment or for the future?

A. No. As far as the picture of the events mentioned by
defence counsel was clear to us, the experts, it was as
follows: No one of us in the Foreign Office thought of
warlike plans or preparations for war. It was only done to
proclaim as impressively as possible that Germany would no
longer allow herself to be considered a nation without the
same rights and obligations as other people.

In the same way the militarisation of the Rhineland was not
based on any aggressive intention, either for the moment or
for the future.

Q. Beginning in 1935, Germany's military strength was
increased, and a year later the demilitarised Rhineland zone
was remilitarised. I should like to read you one sentence
from the affidavit of the former minister and interpreter,
Paul Schmidt of the Foreign Office. He says the following in
regard to the events in the spring of 1935:

  "The conclusion of a pact of mutual assistance between
  France and Russia on the 2nd May, 1935, followed the
  proclamation of the foundation of a German air force and
  the introduction of general compulsory military service
  in March, 1935."

Will you please give us a brief review of the historical
development of these matters which led to the increase of
military strength in 1935 and to the remilitarization of the
Rhineland in March, 1936.

A. I believe -

                                                  [Page 220]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, we have had the historical
development of these matters over and over again. Surely we
do not want it from this witness.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Only very briefly, only the dates, in
proper order, Mr. President; no explanations about it. I
should only like to emphasize strongly once more how the
individual events are connected with each other.

THE PRESIDENT (interrupting): The Tribunal have the dates in
their minds. We really have had these dates in our minds for
some months.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Very well. If the Tribunal believes
that it does not need to be informed about it, I must, of
course, dispense with it.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you can put any question you really
want to put about it, but you were asking to be given the
historical developments from 2nd May, 1935. We have heard
them over and over again.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, Mr. President. I was only
interested in the following: from this affidavit of Herr
Schmidt which I have just quoted, one could directly assume
-

THE PRESIDENT: Ask the question, whatever you want to ask
about this affidavit.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Then I shall formulate the question as
follows:

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. I have just read this sentence by Herr Schmidt, and I
have also told you what can be read from it, namely that the
conclusion of the Franco-Russian Pact of 2nd May, 1935, was
the result of the restoration of military strength. Is that
true, or what was the case?

A. That question is difficult to answer if one merely
considers these two events in chronological order. The
conclusion of the Franco-Russian Pact was on 2nd May, 1935.
The restoration of military strength was in March, 1935.

However, the negotiations for this treaty of assistance go
much farther back, and I should like to recall the fact that
the critical stage into which these negotiations had entered
before the restoration of military strength is shown very
clearly in the report of the French Military Committee's
reporter in which the latter speaks quite openly of a close
entente between the two nations. That was on 23rd November,
1934.

Q. Now I come to another question and should like to ask you
whether you know the opinions and attitude of yon Neurath
concerning the Austrian question, at least during your time?

A. I have known Herr yon Neurath's attitude toward the
Austrian question for a much longer time than the period
when we worked together during his term as minister, for, as
a South German, he was always particularly interested in the
problem, and I recall many conversations which I had with
him, even when I was still a vice-consul. His attitude and
intentions had always been to make the relations between
Germany and Austria closer in the economic sphere, chiefly
in the interests of Austria, and politically to guarantee a
similar policy by national treaties, but otherwise not to
encroach on Austria's independence; that is what we in the
Foreign Office had already learned several years before he
became minister, from our experience with the Customs Union,
which at that time was actually intended only in an economic
sense. The fact that this attempt was quite generally
considered as a political union gave pause for thought and
should have been a warning to everyone who had decided to
touch this hot iron again. Therefore Neurath, during his
period of office, whenever he discussed the problem with me
and worked on it, thought along just these lines.

I should like to add here that the critical time on the
Austrian question was probably after I had left office.
Moreover, even Hitler originally shared Neurath's moderate
attitude, as was shown in his conversation with Mussolini in
Venice in the summer of 1934. Especially interesting,
however, are the remarks which

                                                  [Page 221]

Hitler made on the Anschluss problem to Sir John Simon
during the negotiations in Berlin in March, 7935. At that
time, Hitler expressed himself to the English statesman to
the effect that if the people in London knew Austria as well
as he did, they would believe his assurance that he could
not want to increase our economic troubles by adding another
field of economic difficulties. Germany did not want to
interfere in this country at all. He was perfectly aware
that any interference in Austrian affairs, even if it meant
carrying out the wish of the Austrian people themselves for
an Anschluss, could not be legalised.

That was Hitler's opinion at that time.

Neurath also rejected all interference in Austrian internal
affairs and strongly condemned the attempts which could be
noticed in Party circles to give direct support to the
Austrian National Socialists. During my time, Neurath did
everything he could to keep the Foreign Office out of the
internal political struggle in Austria.

Q. Still one more question. Up to the time of your
resignation at the beginning of 1936, was there ever any
talk in the Foreign Office of attacking Czechoslovakia or
not observing existent treaties with that country?

A. Never, neither the one nor the other. Our economic and
political relations with Czechoslovakia were, as long as I
was in service, very good. We had no reason whatsoever to
change them, not even the slightest.

Q. And now my last question. Can you tell us anything about
Herr von Neurath's attitude toward the race question?

A. On this question Neurath was completely opposed to the
Party attitude. In this connection I should like to recall
an experience which Neurath told me personally.

When the Jewish legislation was about to be proclaimed, the
Reich Foreign Minister Guertner -

Q. Reich Minister of Justice?

A. Yes, excuse me, I meant Reich Minister of Justice
Guertner - came to Neurath in great excitement and told him
that he, Guertner, had warned Hitler in vain against
proclaiming these completely impossible laws. He strongly
urged Herr von Neurath as Foreign Minister to point out the
enormous dangers which this madness could set loose abroad.
Neurath told me that he did this immediately, but that all
his efforts had been in vain.

Neurath's personal attitude on the Jewish problem was
thoroughly conciliatory and reasonable, in keeping with his
kind personality as a whole and his religious attitude.
Among many examples I should here like to refer only to the
following:

During the time when we were in London together, the Jewish
doctor at the embassy was also one of the closest friends of
the Neurath family. When he had to leave London during the
World War and was homeless and without employment, Neurath
immediately took active steps to help his old friend.

As Reich Foreign Minister, von Neurath always helped non-
Aryan colleagues, although that often brought him under
attack from the Party circles, and was not always easy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I have no further
questions to put to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the defendants'
counsel want to ask any question?

Does the prosecution wish to ask any questions?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, the Tribunal will, of
course, not consider that the prosecution is accepting every
statement of the witness, but I do not think that it would
be a useful appropriation of time to cross-examine him.
Therefore I shall ask no questions.

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, Sir David.

                                                  [Page 222]

Sir David, would it be convenient to you and to the members
of the defendants' counsel to discuss the questions of
supplementary applications for witnesses and documents at
two o'clock?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Certainly, my Lord, it would be very
convenient to me. I do not think there are many matters
about which there will be any serious dispute.


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