The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The first problem the defendant and von Papen, who was Reich
Chancellor A the time, managed to conduct towards a
satisfactory solution at the conference hod by the Powers in
Lausanne on 10th June, 1932, a few days after the
defendant's assumption of office. At the closing session of
the conference on 9th July, 1932, Germany was freed from the
financial servitude established by the Treaty of Versailles
against a single final payment of three milliard of marks.
The Young Plan was obsolete, and only Germany's obligations
deriving from the loans granted her remained in force. Thus
came for Germany the political achievement that Part VIII of
the Treaty of Versailles, in which the reparation
obligations were contained in virtue of Article 232, became
obsolete. The first breach was made.

Matters were different as regards the disarmament problem.
This arose from the obligation for disarmament imposed on
Germany according to Part V of the Treaty of Versailles
which, I presume, is well known. In case of its fulfilment,
the preamble to this part likewise prescribed disarmament
for the highly armed victorious nations in reciprocity.
Germany had disarmed: it had already fully met its
obligations in 1927, an uncontested fact which the League of
Nations also had expressly recognized. This was the basis
for Germany's request for reciprocal compliance by the other
partners to the Treaty, as provided for in the Preamble to
Part V. And Germany had announced her request for
disarmament by the highly armed States and in conjunction
therewith recognition of her equality of rights a
considerable time before the defendant took office. However,
during the so-called Disarmament Conference the negotiations
not only had made no progress by the time the defendant took
over the Foreign Office, but just at that time, the summer
of 1932, they had become considerably more difficult. In
view of the short time allotted for my disposal, I again
refer for details to the German Memorandum of 29th August,
1932 (my Document Book II, No. 40) and to my client's
interview of 6th September, 1932, with a representative of
the Wolff Telegraph Office, to be found in the same document
book under No. 41. Lastly, I should like to refer to the
defendant's declaration of 30th September, 1932, before
representatives of the German Press, submitted to the
Tribunal under No. 45, my Document Book 11.

These declarations, all of which were made preparatory to
the resumption of negotiations at the Disarmament Conference
on 16th October, 1932, and in order to demonstrate the
seriousness of the situation to the world and to the Western
Powers - prove clearly and unequivocally the great,
fundamental tendency of the defendant's ideas, his trend of
thought and intentions as a human being, as a diplomat and
as Foreign Minister, which dominated his entire policy from
the beginning until his resignation, and which can be
summarised in the statement to avoid and prevent the
settling of differences through force of arms; to realize
all goals and tasks of German foreign policy by peaceful
means only; to reject war as a means of policy; in a word,
to strengthen and safeguard peace among the nations.

It is the same tendency which M. Francois Poncet, the former
French Ambassador to Berlin, so eloquently referred to as a
characteristic of the defendant in his letter - which I
submitted to the Tribunal as No. 157 of my Document Book V -
and which was unanimously confirmed by all witnesses and

While the opening of negotiations at the Disarmament
Conference started with what really might be termed an
affront to Germany, which caused the head of the German
Delegation to declare that under such conditions it would
not be possible for him to continue to attend the
negotiations, the Western Powers in the end

                                                  [Page 280]

could not close their minds to the ethics of a policy
inspired by such tendencies, and following a suggestion by
the British Government, on 11th December, 1932, the
conclusion of the well-known Five-Power Agreement was
achieved (see my Document Book II, 47a) in which England,
France and Italy, with the admission of the United States of
America, recognized Germany's equality of rights. On 14th
December, 1932, the Main Committee of the Disarmament
Conference expressed its satisfaction in acknowledging this
agreement, and the German Delegate expressed his readiness
to resume participation in the deliberation of the
conference, stressing also that the quality recognized on
11th December, 1932, in regard to Germany was the condicio
sine qua non or this continued participation by Germany.

It seemed that a great step forward had thus been made in
the path leading to an understanding on the question of

However, things were to take a different turn. Immediately
following the opening of the conference meeting again in
Geneva on 2nd February, 1933, serious clashes occurred
between the German and the French Delegations, in the course
of which M. Paul Boncour, the French Delegate, even went so
far as to declare the Five-Power Agreement of 11th December,
1932, legally invalid because it involved five powers only.
To the astonishment not only of Germany, the cause for these
increasingly acute differences was the fundamental change in
France's attitude as regards the basic question of the
entire armaments problem laid down in the French plan of
14th November, 1932, as a basis for these negotiations. For,
contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles and
its own attitude heretofore, France suddenly took the
position in this plan that armies composed of professional
soldiers with a long period of service were aggressive in
character and, consequently, meant a threat to peace and
that only armies with a short period of service were
defensive in character.

I regret that for lack of time I must desist not only from
referring at greater length to the details of the French
plan, but also to the sequence of the differences which
became more and more critical between Germany and the other
Powers. Rather, I must presume that they are known and
confine myself to stressing that the new French thesis,
which the Disarmament Conference adopted as its own, was
clearly and unequivocally directed against Germany and the
Reichswehr as it had come into being in accordance with the
disarmament stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles, a
thesis which, if it were to be carried into effect, would
have required the transformation of the Reichswehr into a
militia army with a short period of service, thus signifying
a still further reduction in its armament, inadequate as it
already was for an effective protection against attack. The
establishment of this thesis; however, also proved clearly
that France was unwilling to disarm, which was also shown by
statements of the French representative himself.

This new plan of France, as also her attitude particularly
in the question of the ratio in the reduction of the
individual armies, was merely a new expression of her old
thesis, first security, then disarmament, which brought
about the failure not only of the previous negotiations but
also that of a new plan of mediation, the so-called
MacDonald plan, proposed by England to prevent the
threatening breakdown of negotiations.

Germany's reference to consideration for her own security
and her demand for general disarmament as a result of the
right to equality by reason of recognition accorded her on
11th December, 1932, were received by the other parties as a
provocation, indication being given that, should
negotiations fail, responsibility would rest with her.

In the interest of the clarification of these things and of
the presentation of the increasing gravity of the whole
situation to the whole world, my client felt it necessary to
publish an article in the well-known Geneva periodical
Volkerbund on 11th May, 1933 - Document Book II, 51 - in
which he discussed the result which the conference had so
far achieved, described the German attitude in detail,

                                                  [Page 281]

and finally established that the German demand for the
practical realization of the equality of rights of Germany
by disarmament of the heavily armed countries was wrecked by
the lack of will of those countries to disarm; and that
Germany, therefore, in the interest of her own security, was
forced to start completing her armament, should the general
limitation and disarmament within the framework of the
English MacDonald plan not satisfy her justified demands for

This conclusion was wholly justified in view of the entire
foreign political situation at that time. These aggravated
events which had intensified the crisis at the Disarmament
Conference were only a small part, so to speak, of the
expression of the international tension which prevailed
since Hitler's assumption of power. Domestic events
occurring in Germany were first observed abroad with
astonishment, but also with a certain lack of comprehension.

Soon after Hitler had assumed power, on 30th January, 1933,
an opinion was formed abroad - the discussion of which would
extend too far here - about the so-called German Revolution,
which made it appear a European danger not only to France
and her allies but also to Great Britain as well. The fear
of such a danger affected to an ever-increasing degree the
attitude of the Western Powers at the Disarmament
Conference, where Germany's completely logical and
consistent point of view was regarded as a provocation. But
these worries of theirs, their insecurity in the face of the
new Germany, led to even much more extensive measures and

With England's consent France began military preparations in
the first days of May, 1933 placing the frontier
fortifications - which had already been provided with
increased garrisons during the winter - in a state of alarm,
alerting the large camps in Lorraine, the deployment area of
her army of the Rhine, and carrying out a large trial
mobilization between Belfort, Mulhouse and St. Ludwig, at
which the Chief of the French General Staff, General
Weygand, appeared in person. And at the same time the French
Foreign Minister, Paul Boncour, ostentatiously declared in
his speech on 12th May, 1933, before the French Senate that,
in view of the revolutionary explosions in Germany, Italy
would have to be kept firmly among the group of Western
Powers; and, in response to Germany's attitude at the
Disarmament Conference, he added that Germany must adhere
strictly to the Treaty of Versailles if she wanted to keep
the Reichswehr. These words of the French Minister, which
could only be understood as a threat, were still further
emphasized and confirmed by similar statements of the
British Minister of War, Hailsham, and the otherwise
pacifist-minded Lord Cecil, in the English House of Commons;
the latter even encouraged France to carry out further
military operations. The situation was so strained that
Europe seemed to be standing directly on the brink of a new

This increasing gravity of the situation, this obvious
crisis which was leading Europe close to disaster is one of
the basic reasons for the entire subsequent policy of the
defendant won Neurath during the following years. Therefore,
the question must be examined as briefly as possible, to see
what consequences it was bound to have and did have, for
German foreign policy, from the German point of view. One
thing is undeniably clear: in the spring of 1933 Germany was
in no condition whatsoever to fight a war; it would have
been complete madness, a sheer desire for self-destruction,
to fight a war against the armies of France and her allies,
which counted millions of men and were excellently equipped
with the latest weapons of attack, with the small Reichswehr
of one hundred thousand men which had at its disposal no
motorized weapons of attack whatsoever, no tanks, no heavy
artillery, no military aeroplanes.

Fear of an imminent warlike attack on the part of Germany
could, therefore, from the point of view of the Western
Powers, under no circumstances be the reason for their
position and attitude. The one plausible reason could lie
only in the attitude of the Western Powers in regard to the
question of disarmament as such, that is, in their
unwillingness to carry it out, and their determination to

                                                  [Page 282]

continue to discriminate against Germany, to continue to
refuse her the realization of her equality of rights and to
continue to keep her clown.

In this alone, in the eyes of the leader of German foreign
policy, lay the reason for the final French and English
proposals at the Disarmament Conference, which were
unacceptable to Germany for reasons of justice as well as
for reasons of her own security and her national honour.
Because even in spite of Germany's equality, which was
recognized by the Western Powers in the Five-Power
Declaration, the French plan of 14th November, 1932, as well
as also the English plan of 16th March, 1933, the MacDonald
plan, and the resolutions of the Disarmament Conference
included therein, lacked any practical realization of
equality, even from the most objective standpoint.

What justly and objectively thinking person can and wishes
to reproach the German State leadership if it drew these
conclusions from all this, and recognized that this
behaviour of the Western Powers contained not only a
violation of existing treaties, and also of the Treaty of
Versailles with regard to disarmament, but also disclosed
the will of the Western Powers to prevent Germany from
maintaining her demands, justified by treaty, by force of
arms if necessary, and furthermore to keep her as a second-
rate State, and to refuse her the security guaranteed her
also in the Treaty of Versailles?

Can you, your Honours, reproach a State leadership which was
aware of its responsibility towards its people, if this
realization from now on had to be decisive for the continued
direction of foreign policy? Because the highest duty of
every State leadership which is aware of its responsibility
in foreign policy is the securing and maintenance of the
existence and the independence of its State, the regaining
of a respected and free position in the Council of Nations.
A statesman who neglects this duty sins against his own
people. This realization should carry all the more weight
because, on the part of Germany, nothing had happened which
might have been interpreted as a threat against the Western
Powers. On the contrary, in his first programme speech in a
Reichstag still elected in accordance with democratic
principles, Hitler had emphatically declared on 23rd March,
1933. punctuated by unanimous applause, his will for peace,
particularly emphasizing this with regard to France, and he
confessed himself prepared for peaceful collaboration with
the other nations of the earth, but emphasized also that as
a prerequisite for this he considered necessary the final
removal of the discrimination against Germany, the division
of the nations into victors and vanquished.

To these declarations of his, however, not the slightest
attention was paid by the Western Powers, although they
corresponded throughout with the given conditions and
contained nothing less than a threat. Unfortunately, they
were unable to effect a change in the attitude of the
Western Powers, and to prevent an acceleration of the

A discernible relaxation only took place when Hitler, under
the influence of the defendant von Neurath, at the climax of
the crisis, repeated once more to the world, with the
greatest emphasis, his and the German people's will for
peace in his great so-called peace address before the
Reichstag on 16th May, 1933 - it is in excerpt form in my
Document Book II, No. 52 - and expressed his conviction
that, as he declared literally, no new European war would be
in the position to replace the unsatisfactory conditions of
today by something better; the outbreak of such an insanity,
as he described the war, would be bound to lead to the
collapse of the present social and State order.

This speech of Hitler, whose honesty and sincerity cannot be
denied according to the evidence, and whose power of
conviction also proved irresistible to the Western Powers,
effected a general relaxation of the situation, the danger
of a new international war was averted, and the world took a
deep breath. This, however, also marked the end of the
isolation and the loneliness of Germany, which had caused
her inner change and every kind of revolution, and German
foreign policy gladly and with a sincere will took the
opportunity for active collaboration in the

                                                  [Page 283]

political State gamble, an opportunity offered her by the
suggestion of Mussolini to unite the great powers, England,
France, Italy and Germany, in a so-called Four-Power Pact.
This treaty, which was drawn up on 8th June, 1933, in Rome
and which was signed in the middle of June, 1933, also by
Germany, and which in its preamble also referred expressly
to the Five-Power Agreement of 11th December, 1932, was to
place the participating powers in such a position that, if
further negotiations in a larger circle, as for example in
the Disarmament Conference, should reach a stalemate, they
could meet at a smaller conference table. For Germany, the
main motive lay in the fact that she again became an active
member in the body of European policy in which she was
participating as a partner with equal rights in an
international agreement, which contrasted the discrimination
against Germany in its contents as well as in its character.

As a matter of fact, this pact was concluded at a time when
a new international tension was already arising and
increasing which again threatened to isolate Germany's
position. This time it had its source not so much in the
Disarmament Conference, the proceedings of which, after the
customary fruitless endeavours for progress, were again
suspended on 29th June, 1933, until 16th October, 1933, as
in the contrasting position of Germany and Austria in the
World Economic Conference which opened in London on 12th
June, 1933. The Austrian Prime Minister Dollfuss made use of
this conference to call the attention of the powers to an
alleged threat to Austria's independence by Germany, in that
he accused Germany, of lending support to the Austrian
National Socialists in their fight against his Government.
Making the Austrian question the centre of gravity for
European policy and calling on the Powers for protection
against an alleged threat to Austria's independence by
Germany - which the former considered an important stone in
the construction of European power relations - he aggravated
their mood anew, which it had been difficult to quiet down
only a short time before. What the mood was then in the
summer of 1933 is shown in my Document Book I, under Nos. 11
and 12, reports of the defendant to Reich President von
Hindenburg and Hitler, dated 19th June, 1933; but reference
is also made to it in the speech by the defendant on 15th
September, 1933, Document Book II, No. 56 - before
representatives of the foreign Press, which also comments on
the consequences of such a mood for the prospects of the
proposed negotiations to be resumed by the Disarmament
Conference on 16th October, 1933, and which is reflected in
his words:

  "Judging by certain indications the readiness of highly
  armed States to carry out disarmament obligations for
  which they pledged themselves today seems to be smaller
  than ever. Finally, there is only one alternative:
  Realization of the right to equality or else a collapse
  of the entire idea of disarmament, with incalculable
  consequences, for which responsibility would not rest on

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