The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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There is certainly no need for further proof of the utter
emptiness and inaccuracy of the further assertion of the
prosecution, also submitted without proof, that the
defendant had used his position, his reputation, his
connections and his influence to lift Hitler and the Nazi
Party into the saddle, and to help them to secure supreme
power in the Reich. Therefore, I hardly need to refer again
to the statements of the defendant Goering and other
witnesses, particularly Dr. Koepke, from which it appears
beyond doubt that at that time there were absolutely no
relations between Hitler and the Nazis and the defendant,
and, therefore, even less could the defendant have taken any
part in the negotiations which took place before Hitler's
call to the chancellorship.

Love for his country, a strong sense of responsibility,
deepest concern about the weal and woe of his people and his
promise not to leave Reich President von Hindenburg in the
lurch in this time of need, these were the only reasons
which moved this man to leave the post of Ambassador in
London, which he had come to like so much, to assume the
heavy charge of Foreign Minister of the Reich at that
critical and fateful hour, and to accept the task assigned
him by the President of the Reich to continue to guide the
foreign policy of the Reich in a peaceful manner, even
eventually against the will of Hitler.

The defendant von Neurath can claim fully and rightly that
he carried out this heavy task at all times with all his
strength and with the full force of his personality, even
after the death of Reich President von Hindenburg, up to the
time he was forced to admit that this task was beyond his
strength, that Hitler no longer let himself be influenced by
him, but had decided to pursue a line of foreign policy
along which the defendant, owing to his inmost convictions
and his personal point of view, could not follow.

Up to 5th November, 1937, the date of the famous speech of
Hitler to the Commanders of the various branches of the
Wehrmacht, the defendant von Neurath remained at his post,
in the most faithful performance of his promise to the Reich
President von Hindenburg, even after the death of the
latter. By reason of this loyalty to the dead Reich
President, he endured the odium, in many cases concerning
Hitler's home politics, of having been compelled as a member
of the Reich Cabinet to allow in silence things to happen
which were contrary to his own convictions, which did not
agree with his views and even were in direct contradiction
to them. It was not in his power to prevent them. So he was
forced to be satisfied with trying as far as possible to
mitigate their effects and consequences, as you could see
from the affidavit of the Bishop Dr. Wurm, Document Book 1,
No. 1, and the statements of the other witnesses heard in
this connection.

The reproach of the prosecution that he did not make such
cases an excuse to lay down his office of Minister, but that
through his remaining in office he had consciously approved
and abetted them, is entirely irrelevant. The first law
governing his actions was the carrying out of the duty
assigned him by President von Hindenburg, to secure the
continuance of the Reich's peaceful foreign policy. He would
have considered himself false to his word if he had resigned
his post

                                                  [Page 275]

as Foreign Minister before this was accomplished or before
there was no possibility of its accomplishment. What person
thinking objectively could bring himself to reproach him
regarding this, or even identify him with the Nazis, as does
the prosecution?

But this attitude of the defendant, however, is the only
reason why he did not refuse, as did the Minister Eltz von
Ruebenach, his nomination to the rank of Honorary
Gruppenfuehrer of the SS in September, 1937, and the
presentation by Hitler of the gold Party Badge at the
Cabinet Session of 30th January, 1937, which facts are made
a reproach by the prosecution and given as evidence of his
alleged National Socialist sentiments. For as the statement
of the defendant Goering concerning the latter indicates,
such a refusal by the defendant von Neurath, as was the case
with Eltz von Ruebenach, would have been resented by Hitler
as an act of rudeness which would without any hesitation
have been answered by the immediate dismissal of the
defendant. But this was just what the defendant wished to
and had to avoid, for at that time he was still in a
position to carry out to the full extent the task assigned
him by the President of the Reich - to be the guarantor of
peace in the foreign policy of the Reich, because he was
fully justified in his conviction that his influence over
Hitler was still strong enough to ensure his agreement with
the peace policy he was then fostering.

The evidence submitted proves beyond doubt that in both
cases it was not a question of actual membership of the SS
and the Party, but in the first case it was only a matter of
uniform, an external vanity of Hitler in regard to the men
of his retinue during the forthcoming visit from Mussolini;
and secondly, that it was a matter of a visible recognition
for the services rendered by the defendant as Foreign
Minister, which at the same time implied a proof of the
unlimited agreement of Hitler with the peaceful foreign
policy followed by the defendant; in other words, an
entirely normal awarding of decorations as is practised in
every State. The conferring of decorations in the ordinary
sense was not yet possible because at that time they did not
yet exist in the Third Reich. That the defendant in both
cases nevertheless expressed at once that under no
circumstances did he wish to prove his entry or admission
into the SS or the Party by accepting this investiture,
intended by Hitler as a mark of honour, has been proved by
his affidavit.

Moreover, he never took the oath required to become a member
of the SS; he never exercised even the slightest activity in
the SS, and wore the SS uniform only twice in his life at
Hitler's explicit request. This has also been confirmed by
his affidavit.

Both cases actually concerned a personal sacrifice of the
defendant to the promise which he had given to Hindenburg.
If the prosecution consequently believes it must infer from
both these incidents a National Socialist conviction of the
defendant and his agreement with Hitler's ideas and his
entire governmental system, it is altogether off the track.
And the conferring of the Order of the Eagle supports the
prosecution's assertion even less. For this Order was not
conferred on him nor on the defendant Ribbentrop as a
personal distinction for services rendered, but it was
merely conferred on them in their positions as Reich
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Reich Protector as such;
this was done in order to give this Order, which was
intended to be conferred on foreign personalities only, a
special significance in the eyes of people abroad, which is
even shown by the fact that it had to be returned by the
defendant when he resigned.

The presentation of evidence, through the affidavits of all
the witnesses examined in this connection, unequivocally
resulted in the fact that the defendant's attitude towards
the National Socialist system and its maxims was negative
from the beginning to the end, and that, therefore, certain
Party circles continually bore him ill will and opposed him.
For these circles knew quite well that the defendant von
Neurath, as is proved by his own statement and by those of
the witnesses

                                                  [Page 276]

Dr. Koepke and Dr. Diekhoff, energetically and successfully
opposed to the last day all attempts to introduce members of
the Party as officials into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
to prevent opening it to Nazi influences; and that in spite
of various intrigues he could not be dissuaded from his
definite peace policy. On account of his inviolable sense of
responsibility and his patriotism, the defendant also took
upon himself this enmity and these intrigues, endeavouring
only to manage German foreign policy along those lines which
he considered right, formed by long years of most successful
diplomatic activity. He was fully convinced that when he
resigned his office it meant the collapse of the last
bulwark against the infiltration of members of the Party and
of the Nazi spirit into the Reich Ministry of Foreign
Affairs; it also meant that the danger of the renunciation
of the peace policy which was embodied in him became
threatening, as happened immediately on his resignation on
4th February, 1938.

It was therefore for the defendant one of the most grievous,
perhaps the most grievous disillusionment in his official
life, when he was forced to recognize by Hitler's speech on
the ominous day of 5th November, 1937, that all his efforts,
his entire struggle, all his personal sacrifices during the
last five years were in vain and that his influence with
Hitler was broken; that the latter had decided to abandon
him and the policy of peace and agreement advocated by him;
and, if the occasion arose, to make use of military means in
order to carry out his more than Utopian plans and
intentions set forth in this speech. The recognition struck
him like lightning from a clear sky, since up to then
nothing had intimated that Hitler might no longer agree on
the peace policy advocated by the defendant. The heart
attack which he had the next day may testify to the fact how
seriously, he felt this blow, which seemed to shatter all
his hopes, all his efforts to protect Germany from the
dangers of this foreign policy, from military entanglements
and a possible, if not probable, catastrophe.

But from his consciousness of responsibility, his burning
concern regarding the future of his people, before drawing
the last self-evident conclusions and resigning, he
considered it his duty to try once again by a very detailed
and serious conversation to dissuade Hitler from persevering
in his fatal plans and intentions. Yet, having to recognize
from this conversation that Hitler's decisions were
unalterable, he did not hesitate for one instant to tell
Hitler that he had decided under no circumstances to take
part in this pernicious policy, and that for such a foreign
policy Hitler must find another Foreign Minister. Hitler
accepted his resignation by his letter of 4th February,

I ask you, gentlemen, is there a more unequivocal and
clearer proof than this resignation of the absolute
inaccuracy, the entire emptiness of the charges made against
my client at this trial of having assisted or having wished
to assist by his foreign policy in the planning and the
preparation of wars of aggression which took place one and a
half years later? Is there a more unequivocal and clearer
proof of the absurdity of the application of the principles
of conspiracy to the acts and deeds of statesmen and, in
particular, of the defendant? Finally, is there a more
unequivocal and clearer proof of the absurdity of a
retrospective judgement of the policy of States, such as
constituted here as one of the main bases of the whole

All of you, gentlemen, who are here to do justice, know from
your own activity and experience at least as well as I do,
how dangerous conclusions a posterior: are regarding the
actions of a man, regarding the thoughts, views and deeds of
this man at a time several years previously. Tempora
mutantur et nos in illis. Each of us has surely experienced
the truth of this sentence more than once in his life.
Convictions and views, intentions and resolutions, which we
have held and carried out at a certain time, have in the
course of years become changed and altered, partly because
of the transformation of one's own personality, partly
because of exterior circumstances, or change of conditions.
Does one really wish to expound this thesis and draw a
conclusion retrospectively, that the former

                                                  [Page 277]

views, assertions and actions were only camouflage, and that
the person already intended to do and was determined to do
what he did years later under quite different circumstances?
Why should you demand a different standard of a politician,
a statesman? He, too, is only a human being and is subject
to the same change of ideas, opinions and intentions as
anyone else. He is even more subject to exterior influences,
exterior conditions, to certain imponderable circumstances
than the ordinary man. Just one example for this: What would
you say to a man who would dare to assert in earnest that
Napoleon Bonaparte, when he went to Paris during the great
revolution, or later on when taking over the supreme command
of the French armies in Northern Italy, already had the idea
or even the plan or the intention, of making himself in 1804
Emperor of the French and of marching on Moscow in 1812? I
believe that whoever adopted this attitude would stand alone
in the world. And an able dialectician with more or less
apparent logic and right could still base this opinion on
the historical development of events, like the prosecution
with regard to their opinion that Hitler, at the time of his
assumption of power, yes, already with the presentation of
the Party programme in 1920, had not only the intention but
even the plan ready for conducting his later wars of
aggression, and everything which Hitler and the Nazis or his
collaborators did, from the very moment of the assumption of
power, both in domestic and foreign politics, was the
conscious preparation for those wars of aggression.

Your Honours, I believe whoever follows the prosecution and
its principle, which still stands on a very weak basis, and
its retrospective consideration of things, overrates too
highly probably not only the spiritual, but also the
statesmanlike abilities, not only of his satellites, but
also of Hitler himself. Because, after all, it is in any
case already evidence of a certain mental limitation, if a
person, and particularly a statesman, founds his policy on
the basis, as Hitler indisputably did, that the governments
and statesmen of the remaining States would again and again
let themselves be fooled and bluffed by the same methods,
that they would again and again stand for actions which they
considered to be violations of treaties, and that they would
watch quietly until Hitler believed himself to be so far
ready as to be able now to attack almost the whole world by
force of arms. And is it not all the more proof of a mental
limitation, if a statesman in this way underestimates the
abilities and cleverness and also the power potential of his
opponents as Hitler did? In addition to all this, however,
there is something which must not be underestimated either;
that is the desultory way of thinking and the decisions
resulting therefrom which was a trait of Hitler. I do not
consider it necessary to have to give you any further
evidence thereof, as they are generally well known. Hitler,
however, was also a man who did not stand for any argument,
or any resistance, and who, when he encountered such and met
obstacles which he could not remove through an emphatic
word, changed his plans and intentions like lightning and
let himself be led to decisions which were frequently just
the opposite from what he had wanted and planned previously.

All this speaks against the intention of the planning and
the preparation of wars at the time of the seizure of power,
and in previous years, which the prosecution has ascribed to
Hitler. The impossibility of this charge is being underlined
further, if one considers the following. It is indisputable
that Hitler not only testified in public speeches, addresses
and diplomatic notes on several occasions, from the day of
the seizure of power until 1937, his desire for limitation
of armaments, as can be seen from documents presented by me,
but he also made positive suggestions for the practical
execution of the limitation of armaments of all States,
therefore also that of Germany, from which it can be
indisputably seen that, with regard to the German armed
forces and Germany's strength in relationship to the
armament of the Western Powers, he declared himself
satisfied with a relationship which from the very beginning
excluded any aggressive war against the other States. And
now just suppose that one of these offers of Hitler

                                                  [Page 278]

had been accepted by the remaining States, then the war of
aggression which Hitler supposedly had been planning and
preparing for years would never have been possible. All
efforts, work, and expenses in connection with it would have
been in vain. Or do you perhaps consider it possible that
Hitler looked ahead and felt assured that his offers would
be refused, and that he only made them because of this
assumption? Then he would really be an almost demoniacal
genius, a prophetic seer of the first rank. Do you really
wish to presume this and to affirm from it the claim of the
prosecution that the planning of the aggressive war of the
year 1939 had occurred a long time before the seizure of
power? And even if you should answer this question in the
affirmative for the person of Hitler, do you also ascribe
such a gift of second sight to his collaborators, his
servants, yes, even all Party members? To ask this question
is to answer it in the negative. With this question alone
tumbles down the whole painfully built up artificial
construction of the case of the prosecution: And along with
it falls also the classification of the whole charge, and in
particular the co-responsibility of all collaborators of
Hitler generally under the conception of the conspiracy, at
least until the period of time when it could be recognized
by the most extensive circles of his followers that Hitler
finally wanted war and had decided on it. Simultaneously
with this, however, the unconditional accuracy of the
postulate date advanced by me at the beginning of my
statements becomes evident after examining the alleged
subjective co-guilt of every single defendant, after the
refusal of the co-responsibility of each individual, only
from the fact of his participation in the actions which are
considered as preparations for a war of aggression by the
prosecution at any period of time, simply without
examination and investigation of his knowledge of Hitler's
aims and intentions.

To waive and disregard this postulate, as the prosecution
does, would be to contradict every sense of justice, the
most primitive as well as the most highly developed, in
every nation on earth. The summum jus sought in this trial
would become a summa injuria.

The best evidence of the truth of this assertion is
personified by the defendant von Neurath himself. Is it not
pure folly, is it not summa injuria to accuse this man of
connivance in planning and preparing wars of aggression,
this man who deemed it his exclusive duty, a duty to which
he has made many a personal sacrifice, to prevent every form
of entanglement involving war - and who, the moment he
realised that the task was beyond him, forthwith resigned
his position and demanded his dismissal? The prosecution
obviously feel this themselves, otherwise it would not have
brought, as evidence of the defendant's alleged joint
culpability, his presence at Hitler's conference on the 5th
November, 1937, wittingly omitting, however, that it was
this conference and Hitler's deviation from a peace to a war
policy which determined the defendant to refuse further
collaboration, and thereby make it clear that he never
concurred in the past and was not prepared to concur in the
future in, or approve of, the planning, preparation or
waging of a war of aggression. Thus, every charge of guilt
made in the Indictment against the defendant von Neurath is
originally void, once and for all. For should he be further
accused of having broken international treaties while
responsible for the conduct of German foreign policy, it
must be pointed out, in answer, that according to the clear
wording of the Charter, the breach of international treaties
does not constitute a punishable crime in itself, and
becomes a punishable crime only when it serves the purpose
of preparation for wars of aggression. If such a breach of
treaty serves this purpose, it must be intended to do so by
its author, or at least its author must have consciousness
of the fact. That defendant von Neurath had no such
intention, nor indeed the faintest consciousness of the
above implication, is quite clearly proved by his
resignation from the office of Foreign Minister. But I shall
moreover demonstrate to you that even the charge of
violation or breach of international treaties is without

                                                  [Page 279]

When, on 2nd June, 1932, the defendant von Neurath took over
the Foreign Office at Hindenburg's request, there were two
problems that far surpassed in importance every other
European problem and awaited an urgent solution; they were
the problem of the German reparations and the problem of the
disarmament of the victorious powers and of German equality
of rights, a factor which was inseparable from it.

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