The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. What was the effect on foreign countries of Hitler's
seizure of power in Germany?

A. A perceptible tension and distrust of the new government
was the immediate result. The antagonism was unmistakable.
It was especially clear to me at the World Economic
Conference in 1933 in London, where I had an opportunity to
talk to many old friends and members of other delegations
and to inform myself definitely of this change in feeling.
The practical effect of this feeling was a greater
cautiousness in all the negotiations, as well as in the
session of the Disarmament Conference which was just
reopening.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to refer
in this connection to a letter which is No. II in my
document book. It is a report by Herr von Neurath to
President von Hindenburg from the London Conference. It is
dated 19th June, 1933. I shall quote only a very short
passage:

  "Unfortunately I have to state that the impressions I
  received here are most alarming."

THE PRESIDENT: What page is that?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Page 47.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that where you are reading - 47?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: 47, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go on.

  DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: "Because of the reports of the
  chiefs of our foreign mission I was prepared for many bad
  manifestations, many gloomy events and disturbing
  opinions on the part of foreign countries. Nevertheless,
  despite all my apprehensions, I had hopes that much of
  this would perhaps be only transitory, that much could
  straighten itself out. However, my apprehensions proved
  more justified than my hopes. I hardly recognized London
  again. I found a mood there - first in the English world
  and then in international circles, which showed a
  retrogression in the political and psychical attitude
  towards Germany which cannot be taken seriously enough."

                                                  [Page 110]

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Now further negotiations were held in the main committee
of the Disarmament Conference in the winter of 1933/34. Can
you briefly describe the course of these negotiations? It is
important, in view of later events.

A. A French plan of 14th November, 1932, was the basis of
the negotiations at that time. This plan, surprisingly
enough, provided for the transformation of professional
armies into armies with a short period of service, for
according to the opinion presented by the French
representative at that time only armies with a short period
of service could be considered defensive armies, while
standing armies, consisting of professional soldiers, would
have an offensive character.

This point of view on the part of France was completely new
and was not only exactly the opposite of France's previous
point of view, but it was also a change from the provisions
laid down in the Versailles Treaty for the disarmament of
Germany. This meant for Germany - at which it was apparently
aimed - the elimination of its standing army of 100,000 men.
In addition, with this new plan France let it be seen that
she herself did not want to disarm. A statement by the
French representative, Paul Boncour, in the session of 8th
February, 1933 confirmed this.

France also maintained the same point of view in the
subsequent discussions about the so-called working programme
presented by England on 30th January, 1933 by means of which
England wanted to speed up the negotiations of the
conference. This attempt to expedite the negotiations, which
aimed at adjusting the diverging tendencies of the various
powers, failed because of the stubborn attitude of France. A
change in the programme was then made in an attempt to get
over these difficulties, and at this time the question of
army strength was debated first.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to
submit and ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of
Document No. 49 in my Document Book 2. It contains excerpts
from the English working programme of the 30th January,
1933, and also from my documents, Nos. 46 and 47, which are
likewise in Document Book 2. They contain excerpts from the
French plan for the unification of continental European army
systems; and, finally, No. 47 of my Document Book 2, which
contains excerpts from the speech of Herr von Neurath at the
session of the League of Nations Assembly on 7th December,
1932, which describes the negotiations up to that time.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What was the attitude of the Disarmament Conference on
the question of the treatment of disarmament as such, that
is, the reduction of army strength?

A. To discuss this I must refer to notes to a great extent,
because it is not possible to keep all these details,
motions, and formulations in one's head. The subject matter
goes into detail so much that I can only do it by means of
notes.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, we have been the whole
morning and we have not yet really got up to 1933. The
Tribunal thinks this is being done in far too great detail.
As I have already pointed out, a great deal of it is an
attempt to show that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust,
which is irrelevant.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, if I may say the
following, I do not wish to show the injustice of the
Versailles Treaty; but I must ...

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. von Ludinghausen, will you kindly
get on? As I, say, we think you are going into it in far too
great detail.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Very well.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What happened now, Herr von Neurath, in order to get the
negotiations going again? On 16th March the English Prime
Minister submitted a new plan ...

                                                  [Page 111]

THE PRESIDENT: We have nothing to do with the disarmament
programme.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I must nevertheless
show what the entire background and mood were in order to
explain more exactly the motives for our withdrawal from the
League of Nations, for which we have been reproached, for
Germany's withdrawal followed in the autumn of 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: There is nothing against von Neurath in
having influenced Germany to resign from the League of
Nations, is there?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, there is.

I can explain the withdrawal from the League of Nations only
on the basis of the preceding events. I cannot say in three
words that this and that was the reason; rather I must
explain how gradually a certain atmosphere came about and
what the circumstances were which left no other choice to
the German Government except to leave the Disarmament
Conference and the League of Nations, for these factors
explain the decision of the German Government to rearm. In
history and in politics decisions and actions are always the
consequence of what went before them. In the development of
these political conditions we are concerned with t period
extending over several years, not with a spontaneous event
or a spontaneous decision. In the case of a military order,
to be sure, I cannot say that this order was based on orders
of the other side; rather I must describe ...

THE PRESIDENT (interrupting): Dr. von Ludinghausen, we do
not need all this argument. We only desire you to get on. I
am pointing out to you that you have been nearly the whole
of the morning and we have not yet got up to 1933.

THE WITNESS: Mr. President, I shall try to be very brief in
coming to this year, when Germany withdrew from the League
of Nations and the Disarmament Conference.

The negotiations, as I said, dragged on the whole year, into
the summer of 1933. In the autumn there was again a
Disarmament Conference session in which the same subject was
more or less debated over again. Well, the result of this
conference was that disarmament was definitely refused by
the Western Powers and that was the reason why we then,
first of all, withdrew from the Disarmament Conference,
since we considered any useful work no longer possible
there. Following this, we also withdrew from the League of
Nations, since we had witnessed its failure in the most
widely different fields.

And so, quite briefly, that brings us up to the point which
caused us to withdraw from the League of Nations. The
reasons which caused us to do so at that time I have
discussed explicitly in a speech, which my defence counsel
can perhaps submit.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What date do you mean, Herr von Neurath?

A. October, 1933 - 16th October. I have the date here, 16th
October, 1933 - to the foreign Press. In this speech I said
that the withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the
League of Nations by no means meant that Germany did not
want to take part in any negotiations or discussions,
especially with the Western Powers.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, this speech is the
excerpt on Page 59 in my document book. Since it is
essentially the same thing that Herr von Neurath has just
stated, except that it is in more detail, I am prepared to
forgo reading the actual excerpt, as I had intended to do.

In this connection I must call attention to the documents
which I have submitted for this entire period of time which
we have rather hurried over, so that they will at least
provide a picture of how things had gradually come to a head
by the middle of October. In this connection I should like
to refer to Document 56, a speech by Herr von Neurath to the
foreign Press; then Hitler's appeal to the German people,
No. 58; to the document just quoted, No. 59;

                                                  [Page 112]

to the German memorandum on the question of armament and
equal rights of 18th December, 1933, No. 61; an interview of
Herr von Neurath with the Berlin representative of the New
York Times on 29th December, 1933; the German answer to the
French memorandum of 1st January, 1934, No. 64 in my
Document Book 3; the German memorandum of 13th March, 1934,
No. 67; the speech of the President of the Disarmament
Conference, Sir Nevile Henderson, of 10th April, 1934, No.
68; and finally, the aide-memoire of the German Reich
Government to the English disarmament memorandum of the 16th
April.

I have just been informed that I gave the wrong first name.
It was Arthur Henderson.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. In the middle of April, 1934, a very important event
occurred. Please comment briefly on this. This note caused a
complete volte face, a change in European politics.

A. This was a French note which was addressed to the English
Government as an answer to an English inquiry and to a
German memorandum of 13th March, 1934, which had spoken
about the continuation of the negotiations. The details are
contained in this speech to the Berlin Press which has just
been cited. With this French note, however, the efforts to
come to a settlement in the disarmament question failed
again because of the French Government's "No."

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to refer to various
documents on this which I have submitted in my Document Book
3; No. 66, an excerpt from a speech of the Belgian Premier,
Count Broqueville, of March, 1934; an excerpt from the diary
of Ambassador Dodd, No. 63; then No. 70, an excerpt from the
note of the French Government, which was just mentioned, to
the English Government on 17th April, 1934; the speech of
Foreign Minister von Neurath, the defendant, to
representatives of the Berlin Press, in which he commented
on this French note, No. 74 in my document book; finally, an
excerpt from the speech of the American delegate at the
Disarmament Conference, Norman Davis, of 29th May, 1934. In
these the sudden change in European politics which I have
just alluded to ...

THE PRESIDENT: Did you give the number of that?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The last one, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No. 76.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes; go on.

THE WITNESS: I think that before I answer this question, I
might perhaps comment on something else. The prosecution
showed me a speech by Hitler on 23rd September, 1939, to the
Commanders-in-Chief of the Army, in which he speaks of the
political and organisational measures which preceded the
war.

THE PRESIDENT: You say that was on 23rd September?

THE WITNESS: 23rd September, 1939.

The prosecution sees in the mention of the withdrawal from
the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference a sign
that aggressive intentions were already in existence at that
time, and reproaches me with this.

As I have repeatedly emphasized, up to 1937 there had never
been any talk at any time of any aggressive intentions or
preparations for a war of aggression. The speech mentioned
by the prosecution was made by Hitler six years after these
events and one and a half years after my resignation as
Foreign Minister. It is clear that to a man like Hitler
these events at such a moment, after the victorious
termination of the Polish war, appeared different from what
they had actually been. These events, however, cannot be
judged afterwards, that is, before the date of the speech,
any more than German foreign policy today can be judged,

                                                  [Page 113]

but it must be regarded from the point of view prevailing at
the time in which they took place.

And now in answer to your question: In my opinion the
reasons lie, first of all, more or less in the fact that the
course of the preceding diplomatic negotiations had shown
that England and Italy no longer stood unconditionally
behind France and were no longer willing to support France's
strictly antagonistic attitude towards the question of equal
rights for Germany. The same point of view was held by the
neutral States, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and
Switzerland, in a note addressed to the Disarmament
Conference of 14th April, 1934. Therefore, at the time,
France apparently feared being isolated and thus falling
into the danger of not being able to maintain her refusal to
accept any form of disarmament. I myself commented in detail
on this attitude on the part of France, from the German
point of view, in my aforementioned speech to the German
Press on 27th April, 1934, I believe.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What were the further consequences of this French note of
17th April, as far as the attitude of French foreign policy
was concerned?

A. Just a few days after this note the French Foreign
Minister, Louis Barthou, undertook a trip to the East, to
Warsaw and Prague. As was soon apparent, the purpose of this
trip to Poland and Czechoslovakia was to prepare the ground
for a resumption of diplomatic relations between these
countries and the other countries of the so-called "Little
Entente" and the Soviet Union, and thus to smooth the way
for the inclusion of Russia as a participant in European
politics.

Barthou's efforts were successful. Poland as well as
Czechoslovakia and Roumania resumed diplomatic relations
with Russia. On a second trip Barthou was able to get the
agreement of all the States of the "Little Entente" to the
Eastern Pact proposed by France and Russia.

Q. Were not negotiations undertaken at the same time for an
Eastern Pact which later also proved to be an instrument
directed against Germany?

A. Yes. I just mentioned it. An Eastern Pact was worked out
and presented which we would have accepted as far as the
basic principle was concerned, but which then came to naught
because we were supposed to undertake an obligation which we
could not keep, namely, to give aid in all cases of conflict
which might arise among the Eastern peoples. We were in no
position to do this, and thus the Eastern Pact came to
naught.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I refer in connection with the
statements just made to three documents in my Document Book
3: No. 72, an official communique of 24th April, 1934, about
the Warsaw discussions of the French Foreign Minister; No.
13, an official communique about the Prague discussions of
the French Foreign Minister on 27th April, 1934; and an
excerpt from a speech of the French Foreign Minister of 30th
May, 1934.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What was your further policy after the rather abrupt
breaking off of negotiations caused by this French note?

A. We tried first of all by means of negotiations with the
individual powers to bring about a permanent and real peace
on the basis of the practical recognition of our equal
rights and general understanding with all peoples. I had
given the German missions abroad the task of carrying on
talks to this effect with the respective governments.

In order to get negotiations going again, Hitler had decided
to accept an invitation from Mussolini for a friendly talk
in Venice. The purpose of this meeting, as Mussolini later
said, was to attempt to disperse the clouds which were
darkening the political horizon of Europe.

A few days after his return from Venice Hitler made an
important speech in which he reaffirmed Germany's will for
peace.

                                                  [Page 114]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like in this
connection to refer to Document No. 80 in the Document Book
3, which is an excerpt from this Hitler speech in Gera on
17th June, 1934, only that part of interest from the foreign
political point of view, of course.

Would you like to break off now, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, the Tribunal hopes that
on Monday, when you continue, you will be able to deal in
less detail with this political history, which, of course,
is very well known to everyone who has lived through it, and
particularly to the Tribunal who have heard it all gone into
before here.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I shall endeavour to do so, Mr.
President.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 24th June, 1946, at 1000 hours.)


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