The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Your Lordship, your Honours. "Never
before has war impressed me as quite so abominable."

This is what Napoleon Bonaparte wrote to the Directorate in
Paris in the year 1799, after the victorious capture of
Jaffa, where he had ordered the shooting of 2,000 captured
Turks. This statement by one of the most outstanding
warriors of all nations stood for unqualified condemnation,
not merely of war as such, but also of all means for the
conduct of war still considered as unavoidable but permitted
at that time. The perception which this word reflects and
its ethical condemnation of war were not uttered in vain. As
early as the middle of the last century, morally and
ethically high-minded personalities made efforts tending to
ameliorate and eliminate at least some of the horrors of
war. The founding of the Red Cross in Geneva was the first
far-reaching result of such endeavours, the first fruits of
Napoleon's word. But I dare to say this word is, so to
speak, also the actual impetus which gave birth to this
present trial. It, too, was caused and dictated by the
endeavour, not only to restrict war as regards the manner in
which it is waged, the independence of selection of means
and actions, but beyond that to find means and ways to
eliminate war altogether as a political measure from the
relations of peoples. It strives for a high goal, to create
an International Law to govern all peoples of all States, as
they live alongside one another and together with one
another, a law to which all States and peoples will submit,
if they wish to rank as civilised States, and by which they
will be forced to abide in the same manner as the individual
national of a State must abide by the law his State has
established for the common existence of its people. And if
you, your Honours, and if the entire world will learn to
understand how infinitely painful it is for us Germans that
it is just our State and our people who have furnished cause
for the creation of such International Law by a war in which
we were engaged, yet my client, the defendant von Neurath,
and I cannot help but welcome the attempt inherent in this
trial, because the highest effort during the entire official
activity of my client, from his first day in office to the
last, was the endeavour to avoid war and to serve peace. And
I do not hesitate to emphasize this, although it is because
of an entirely new principle of law that my client is facing
this Tribunal today. Because for the first time in history
the idea is to be carried into practice according to which
this or these statesmen of a nation are to be held
personally responsible and are to be punished for the wars
of aggression caused by them, and the inhuman and cruel
means applied therein. This idea, which this International
Tribunal is about to carry into practice as a principle of
law, is an absolute novelty in the history of International
Law. But if the present Court Trial and the Charter on which
it is based is to be more than a single procedure worked out
and intended for this one case, in other words for this war
just ended; if it arose not merely from the thought of
vengeance because of harm and damage done to the victorious
nations and is intended to atone for them; if it really was
brought forth by the will and the decision to eliminate war
in itself for good, through the stipulation of the personal
responsibility of the statesmen of the nations, then this
constitutes a deed which every peace-loving person will
sincerely welcome. It furthermore

                                                  [Page 270]

contains two elements apparently suited to revolutionise all
that was heretofore known in this world for handling and
directing the foreign policy of States, and to raise it on
to a new and undoubtedly higher ethical basis.

It has been an ancient established postulate for the policy
of a statesman and his rating before history - which has
been so since the famous speech made by Pericles and since
Plato's State doctrines, making it the foremost, I would
almost say the only postulate - to exert every endeavour to
obtain for his people, for the State under his stewardship,
the highest possible level. of existence, of maintenance,
and improvement of standard of living, of position among the
nations, irrespective of the means required for
accomplishment. Every nation on earth includes in its
history statesmen who, seen in this light, are being
extolled and honoured as shining examples, and who went down
in history as such merely because they were successful, and
without examining whether the means used by them to obtain
success were in harmony or not with the ethical principles,
not only of the Christian but of all leading moral
philosophies. To this maxim the Charter of this High
Tribunal opposes a new maxim in that it plainly stipulates
that every war of aggression places culpability on the
person responsible for the war, regardless of whether the
war was won or lost. However, this means nothing else but
subjection to the moral law - which rejects application of
force of any kind as a means of policy - of every State
stewardship, even the most successful and the most

If, however, this is to have a practical meaning and is to
be successful, then there follows the subjection of every
State stewardship to the test and judgement of all other
civilised States in the world. On that principle of the
Charter established by this High Tribunal it would call for
the examining and possible judgement of all inner political
measures which, in retrospect, might be seen as actions of
preparation for this war. To discuss consequences resulting
from this would lead too far; this must rather be left to
the discussion by scholars of State law and to further
developments, and I wish therefore to confine myself to
pointing to one consequence only, the consequence that the
statesmen involved in the war of aggression will be subject
to such judgement of a future International World Court and
will be liable to punishment, even in the event of that war
of aggression ending in victory. Perhaps this is the main
point, reflecting the highest ethics of the stipulations and
principles established in the Charter.

If I particularly stress these points it is not because my
client or I doubt that the authors of this Charter failed to
be fully aware of these consequences too. But in the fact
that this new tenet of International Law is to find
application for the first time before the World Forum and by
the Allied Governments, not through a power dictate but
through a court procedure equipped with all reservations for
objectivity and impartiality, in this fact my client and I
see proof that this court procedure was born and is being
motivated by the ideal aspiration of mankind to free it from
the scourge of war.

And even if my client and I myself in no way fail to
recognize the important issue in this trial as based on the
Charter, namely that, in sharp contrast to the principles of
law of all democratic States, of every democratic-liberal
principle of law, it proposes to pass judgement on and
inflict punishment for many actions for which, at the time
they were committed, there undeniably did not exist a law or
a precedence governing them, my client and I nevertheless
are confident, because of our conviction that this High
Tribunal will not base the establishment of its verdict on
individual and incoherently joined actions, on single bare
facts, but that it will scrutinize and examine with
particular care the motives and aspirations which moved each
individual defendant. If then you, your Honours, will
establish, as I am convinced you will, that from the first
to the last day of his official activity as Reich Foreign
Minister or as Reich Protector, my client was moved by one
desire only, that all his deeds and actions were governed by
one aspiration, to prevent a war and its cruelties, to
maintain peace, and that the very

                                                  [Page 271]

reason for his remaining in office was to prevent war and
its inhumanity through his influence; and that he did not
withdraw from his post until he was forced to conclude that
all his efforts were in vain, and that the will and
determination to wage war of the highest ruler of the State,
Hitler, were more powerful than he; in that case the fact of
his membership and continuance of office in the Reich
Government until that moment cannot possibly be construed as
approval, much less as assistance and co-partnership in the
planning, preparing, or waging of war, thereby placing upon
him joint responsibility for the war, or even for cruelties
and atrocities committed during its course.

The very fact of the application - an application made for
the first time in this trial, at least in International Law
and in Democratic States - of the legal doctrine that an
action already committed can subsequently be made punishable
by law, results in the imperative demand that the question
of the subjective guilt of the defendant - in other words
the consciousness, not only of the amorality and the
presumed criminality of the deed in question, but also the
intent to commit the deed or at least to offer active
assistance despite such awareness - be examined and answered
before a verdict is arrived at. Disregard of this postulate
would not only rob this trial of its high ethical
importance, but would open wide every door and gate to
arbitrariness, making such court procedure appear before the
world, not as a real procedure of justice within its truest
and profoundest meaning, but making it a power dictate
wearing the robe of Justice.

An extraordinary responsibility is thus placed upon your
shoulders, greater than has ever been placed before on the
shoulders of any Court in the world. Carrying out the will
and the vision of the father of this trial, President
Roosevelt, who passed away far too soon, it is your task,
your Honours, to lay the first cornerstone for the temple of
peace of the nations of the earth. You are to lay the
foundation for the attainment of the ideal he envisaged,
perpetual peace. Coming generations are to continue to build
on your judgement. You are to give the directives according
to which those who come after us must continue to aspire to
this high goal. It is not a precedent you are to establish,
not individual cases you are to judge and then punish the
guilty men according to your judgement; but you are to lay
down the fundamental principles of a new International Law
which is to govern the world in the future. This alone, this
task assigned to you, establishes the meaning of this
Tribunal, its justification and its high ethical
inspiration, to which we yield. At the same time, however,
this also includes the recognition that the verdict to be
established by you in regard to these defendants is not a
verdict in the ordinary meaning of the word; it is not
merely a judge's sentence pronounced on behalf of individual
defendants and their deeds, but it is the new fundamental
law itself, the source from which all future Courts are to
draw, in accordance with which your verdict is to be

It is therefore your task, your Honours, to interpret the
provisions of the Charter according to their principles, and
to establish in practice and for all time to come the rules
and principles of the Charter. The responsibility which you
thereby assume before history puts two questions to you, the
answer to which is all the more complicated because the
legal concept of conspiracy incorporated in the Charter and
forming the legal foundation of the Indictment is a concept
foreign not only to the majority of peoples, especially the
European peoples, but also because in one or the other
country it owed its existence to its previous application to
the fight against common crimes and offences against the
legal provisions governing domestic affairs and against
those alone. The postulate necessarily follows that the
modus of interpretation and application of this legal
concept in International Law can and must never be the same
as employed in the fight against common bands of gangsters,
guilty of a breach of the social order of a particular
country and of the laws promulgated for its protection. The
latter ordinarily involves individuals of a more or less
amoral disposition, who act for reasons of selfishness, lust
for money or other unethical instincts, placing them-

                                                  [Page 272]

selves outside the existing social order. In the last
analysis, however, and particularly when wars of aggression
are involved, International Law does not deal with
individual statesmen but much rather with whole peoples. The
age of absolutism, where the will of the ruler determined
alone the destiny and acts of a people, has definitely
passed. In this age it may be said that one cannot imagine
any avowed dictator or omnipotent despot who can rule
without or against the will, or at least the tacit approval
of the nation, at least its majority. And so - it is
necessary to make this known to the world-invisible behind
the defendants, there sits also in the prisoners' dock our
poor beaten and tortured German people, because it placed
upon a pedestal and selected as leader a man who led it to
its doom. From this follows of necessity the inescapable
demand that, contrary to the concept of a conspiracy applied
in regard to ordinary criminals, application of the concept
of conspiracy applied in International Law must firstly
proceed to investigate and examine how it happened - how it
could happen - that an intellectually high-ranking people, a
people who gave so much to the world in terms of cultural
and spiritual gifts as the German people did, could hail a
man such as Hitler, follow him into the bloodiest of all
wars, giving him its last and best. Not until you, your
Honours, have incorporated this in the field of your
considerations and examined this question, will you be able
to establish a just verdict in regard to the individual
defendants themselves, with due consideration for their
dissimilarity, a judgement which will stand the test of
history. Because of such reasoning, and not merely by reason
of my right as defence counsel of the defendant, Freiherr
von Neurath, but also because of my duty as a German, I
deemed it necessary to explain in mere outline the fact of
Nazi domination which the world outside Germany cannot
grasp; to make you visualize how it happened as a result of
the effects of the Versailles Treaty and finally, because of
the manner of its application, how it was bound to happen,
true to historical necessity.

In view of the short amount of time made available to me
through decision of the Tribunal, I must refrain from
reading that part of my final pleading, and express my
definite hope that the Tribunal will subsequently go to the
trouble of reading it itself and that it will consider its
arguments when establishing its verdict. I now continue with
Page 44 (a) of my final pleading, and should first of all
like to give you a brief description of the personality and
of the thoughts and feelings of that man who is today before
you as a prisoner.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, probably that would be
a convenient time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Born as a scion of an old family which
gave its small home State, Wurttemberg, so many loyal high
government officials, the defendant von Neurath grew up with
a simple and strict education in a parental home filled not
only with a real Christian spirit and true love for mankind,
but also with an ardent, devoted love for the German people
and Fatherland. From his tenderest age and during his entire
life his thoughts and actions had implanted in him the
desire and will, the holy duty, to place all his powers, all
his ability, all his gifts and capacities at the service of
the welfare of his people, to subordinate and even sacrifice
all his personal interests to this. But, and this must
certainly be emphasized in this place, apart from this
aspiration there was alive in him and woven into his being
to an equally strong degree a deep religious feeling, love
of the truth and love of mankind that made him from the
beginning adverse to the use of any form of violence against
his fellow-men not only in his private life, in his
relations with his fellow-men, but which ruled to the same
extent his entire official activity, even after the Treaty
of Versailles. His acts bore the stamp of this feeling and
it became the law governing his official dealings as a
representative of the Reich in other countries, as well as
Foreign Minister and lastly as Reich Protector of Bohemia
and Moravia.

                                                  [Page 273]

Not only by his conciliatory amiability, his skill and
demeanour, so understandable in a man of his origin and
education, but also primarily through the love of peace and
sincerity which permeated all his actions as a diplomat and
statesman, he won the unlimited and sincere respect and
sympathy of all people with whom he came into contact the
world over, even of his political opponents. As unequivocal
proof of this fact, the truth of which, your Honours, may be
confirmed by your own diplomats, it will suffice to refer to
the fact that, as you know from the sworn affidavit of my
client, no less persons than King George V and King Edward
VIII of England received the defendant in private audiences
on the occasions of his presence in London in 1933 and 1935;
that the British Government in the summer of 1937 and again
in 1938, when he was no longer Foreign Minister, invited him
to visit England for political discussions, and finally,
that on his 65th birthday on and February, 1938, the entire
diplomatic corps called on him to congratulate him and to
express through Monsignore Orsenigo, who at that time was
its doyen, its thanks and its appreciation for the
reasonable and understanding manner in which he always
discharged all his duties. Do you, your Honours, credit your
own diplomats and statesmen with so little knowledge of
human nature, so little experience and knowledge of the
world that in the course of the defendant's six years'
activity they would not have found out, if the assertion of
the prosecution were true, that Herr von Neurath had
knowingly let himself and his good reputation be used as a
covering shield by the Nazis, and that all his statements
and assurances as Foreign Minister were mere camouflage,
that is to say, a deliberate deceiving of the whole world?

In this connection, it may well be pointed out as quite
obvious that such old and experienced democracies as
England, America, France, as well as the Vatican, had
delegated to the post of Ambassador in Berlin, the most
important post at that time, their cleverest and most
experienced diplomats. And I am tempted to assume that the
prosecution possibly did not realize quite clearly what a
dubious compliment it paid to its own diplomats by its
assertion about the defendant, while it produces in proof of
this assertion only the highly fantastic report of the
American Consul Messersmith. I am moreover unshakeably
convinced that you, your Honours, based on the very reason
of your long judicial experience, have far too much
knowledge of human nature not to see at first glance that my
client, by his entire personality, is absolutely incapable
of such a perfidious and untruthful way of acting, let alone
capable of play-acting to such an extent that for six long
years he could have fooled the ablest and most experienced
diplomats in the whole world. A man like the defendant, who
for 60 years has led an honourable and absolutely decent
life, would never in the world at the end of such a life
have lent himself to such a disavowal and negation of all
that he had so far held highest. That would be contrary to
anybody's personal experience.

And on the same level stands the prosecution's assertion
that the defendant von Neurath, by joining and remaining in
Hitler's Cabinet, served as a fifth columnist in the
conservative circles of Germany, for the express purpose of
winning them over to National Socialism. This slandering of
the defendant, which, moreover, was brought forward without
any attempt at proving it, is contradicted by the sworn
statements of all witnesses and the affidavits submitted,
which unanimously state that the resignation of the
defendant from the office of Foreign Minister was viewed in
just these circles with the greatest dismay and concern,
because these circles considered that this withdrawal of the
defendant from the Government was in itself a sign that from
then on his pronounced peace policy would be replaced by
another, more belligerent tendency in foreign policy, which
was quite rightly considered as a national calamity. For,
like everybody else, they shared the conviction of Reich
President von Hindenburg, that Herr von Neurath was the
exponent of the peaceful foreign policy of the Reich and the
guarantor of a consistent continuation of this peace policy
against any possible, undesired aggressive experiments by
Hitler and the Nazi Party and that for this reason the

                                                  [Page 274]

Reich President stipulated that the defendant should remain
in the Cabinet as Foreign Minister when Hitler was called to
the Reich Chancellery.

This fact is confirmed beyond doubt by the sworn statements
of all the witnesses heard, as well as by the carbon copy
submitted by me of the letter of the witness Dr. Koepke of
2nd June, 1932, to Ambassador Ruemelin, Document Book 1, No.
8, and the affidavit of Baroness Ritter, Document Book 1,
No. 3.

But the latter proves also at the same time how unwillingly,
and after how long a struggle, the defendant finally decided
to accept this call and, therefore, supports the defendant's
own sworn statement that he only decided to do so after the
Reich President, whom he so highly venerated, appealed to
his love for his country and reminded him of the promise he
had made two years before not to leave him in the lurch
whenever he, the Reich President, needed him.

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