The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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I particularly want to point out that the reply
which the defendant authorized to be drafted on the basis of
Hitler's description and for which he also did not use the
letterhead of the

                                                  [Page 307]

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was not signed by him in his
own name, nor on behalf of the absent Foreign Minister, but,
as the wording of the document discloses, it was forwarded
by him on the order of the Reich Government as a description
of the events. But the Reich Government was Hitler, or
rather on that day Goering. He therefore made perfectly
plain that he was not writing in his own name, on his own
responsibility, but that like an attorney he was only
forwarding information of a third person, namely, Hitler. He
really cannot be reproached for not having doubted the
accuracy of this information and for not having checked the
official description of the head of the State, quite apart
from the fact that he would not have been in position to
check it.

He can also not be reproached for the statement which he
made a short time later to the Czechoslovak Ambassador, Dr.
Mastny. In the first place, according to the sworn statement
of the defendant, the discussion in question took place in a
way rather different from that described in the report of
Ambassador Dr. Mastny, which apparently aimed at greater
emphasis and effect. But, in any case, the penultimate
paragraph of this report - Document Book V, No. IV - shows
clearly that even Mastny interpreted the statement of the
defendant, that Hitler had no intention of attacking
Czechoslovakia and now, as before, considered himself bound
by the provisions of the agreement of arbitration, to imply
no guarantee for all time, but only for the immediate
future, that is, until the action against Austria had been
terminated. In view of the insufficient preparations of the
Wehrmacht for war, confirmed here by the defendant Jodl,
there was absolutely no reason to doubt the accuracy of this
statement, that is, to doubt that it actually corresponded
to Hitler's wish at the time, in spite of the references of
the prosecution to Hitler's statements in his speech on 5th
November, 1937, about the conquest of Austria and
Czechoslovakia. For these statements referred only to the
possibility of war with other States and to a much later
period. So the accusations raised by the prosecution against
the defendant on this point are also unfounded. That already
a few months after his speech on 5th November, 1937, Hitler
decided to incorporate Austria into Germany came as a
surprise to all, even to his closest collaborators. This
decision, however, was taken not only on the basis of
developments in Austria, but most likely not least on the
basis of conferences between Hitler, the defendant and Lord
Halifax, the then Lord President of the Council, in November
and December, 1937, in which, according to the sworn
statement of the defendant, Lord Halifax declared that the
British people would not understand why they should enter a
war because two German countries had united.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN (counsel for the defendant von

Once more, in the autumn of 1938, the defendant von Neurath
took it into his hands to stem the tide of events in order
to stave off the immediate danger of war from the German
people. In view of the corroborative testimony of Goering
and other witnesses I do not need to describe in detail how
the Munich conference came about towards the end of
September, 1938. The fact remains that it was held and was
successful - I refer to the agreement with Britain and
France on the Sudeten question - and this was due in no
small measure to the initiative and co-operation of the

If, however, he was able to accomplish this, it is due to a
circumstance which the prosecution, completely
misunderstanding the situation, now includes among the
accusations, namely, that upon his resignation as Foreign
Minister he was appointed President of the Secret Cabinet
Council, which had been newly created by Hitler at the same

Had he not been in this position it would not have been
possible for him to force his way to Hitler in September,
1938, and persuade him to agree to the Munich conference;
for, contrary to the allegation of the prosecution, even
though he kept the title of Reich Minister from the day he
resigned as Foreign Minister, he was no

                                                  [Page 308]

longer a member of the Reich Cabinet, which is shown by the
fact that from that day on his salary was decreased by one-

Any joint responsibility which the defendant might have had
for the policy of the Reich ceased as from that day. For,
contrary to the assertion of the prosecution, as President
of the Secret Cabinet Council he was not a member of the
Reich Cabinet and had no access to it, let alone a seat or a
vote in the Cabinet sessions.

This is established beyond doubt by the very wording of
Hitler's decree whereby this Secret Cabinet Council was
created, for it says expressly that the sole purpose of this
Secret Cabinet Council was to advise the Fuehrer personally,
that is, Hitler alone, and only on questions concerning
foreign policy. Even Huber's book Constitutional Law of
Greater Germany, quoted by the prosecution under PS-1744 in
its attempts to prove the contrary, shows that the Secret
Cabinet Council and its President had nothing whatsoever to
do with the Reich Cabinet and were not a branch or an organ
of it, but only one of several of the Fuehrer's personal

As has been shown by the testimony of Goering, Lammers and
other witnesses, the Secret Cabinet Council never really
functioned, and was never meant to function. In point of
fact, all that was intended was to bestow a personal honour
on the defendant, and thus efface the impression that
differences had arisen between him and Hitler. That he
himself did not look upon his appointment in any other way
is proved by the fact that after 4th February, 1938, the
defendant lived on his estate in Wurttemberg as a private
citizen according to his own personal inclinations and went
only very rarely to Berlin, where, however, he was not and
could not be active in any official capacity, as all
information as to what was happening in the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs was deliberately kept from him.

If the prosecution believes that it is able to conclude from
the documents submitted by it under 3945-PS that the
defendant received sums of money from the Reich or the Reich
Chancellery for obtaining diplomatic information, then -
apart from the defendant's own testimony under oath - this
is refuted by a letter among these documents dated 31st May,
1939, from Amtsrat Koppen, the head of the office of the
Secret Cabinet Council, which was kept going merely for the
sake of appearances - a letter which proves conclusively
that these not very large payments made to this office at
long intervals were for covering the cost of maintaining
this office, and were not intended for any purposes of
secret information.

And if the defendant made no use of his position as
President of this Secret Cabinet Council, except for this
one occasion in September, 1938, he made just as little use
of his position as a member of the Reich Defence Council, to
which he was appointed by the Law for the Defence of the
Reich. Here too the prosecution errs when it makes use of
this membership to accuse the defendant of warlike
intentions or of promoting such intentions.

As this Reich Defence Council has already been discussed so
much during the course of the evidence, I believe there is
no need for me to examine more closely this assertion of the
prosecution, and that I can limit myself to pointing out
that no aggressive tendencies of any kind were embodied in
these Reich Defence Laws, but that, on the contrary, as
their contents state, they merely contain - as is the custom
in any country that has to reckon with the possibility of a
war - the necessary provisions for the event of the Reich
being attacked or being drawn into a war in some other
manner. How one can deduce from them that the defendant had
warlike intentions or planned for war is utterly

Moreover, the defendant did not take part in a single one of
the meetings of this Council, and no reports about the
decisions of this Council were ever forwarded to him. The
document 2194-PS submitted by the prosecution as alleged
counter-evidence was not sent to the defendant at all, but
to a department of the Reich Ministry of Transport attached
to the Government of the Protectorate, namely, the Transport
Department - and was intended for the latter. Also the
sender of the document was not the Reich Defence Council,
but the Ministry of Economics and Labour of Saxony.

                                                  [Page 309]

All these and similar efforts will never enable the
prosecution to prove that the defendant, by his policies,
was at any time directly or indirectly guilty of the crime
of planning or preparing an aggressive war or even of
approving or supporting such a war. Quite the contrary. All
his efforts were directed to one end and one end only - to
attain by peaceful means and in a peaceful way only those
aims which had been sought by all former democratic
governments since 1919; namely, the removal of the
provisions of the Versailles Treaty which discriminated
against Germany and stamped the German Reich as a second-
rate power, and the bringing about of a general pacification
of Europe. Not one of his diplomatic actions served any
other purpose or was performed with any intention which
would imply a crime in the sense of the Charter.

It is not surprising, therefore, that his resignation as
Reich Foreign Minister was received by the whole world with
anxiety and dismay - both outside Germany - I refer to the
statement of the witness Diekhoff - as well as inside
Germany - especially in conservative circles. This alone
goes to prove that the assertion of the prosecution that he
was active in these circles as a fifth columnist is untrue.
All the prosecution's references to Hitler's speech to his
generals in November, 1939, and still less to the speeches
by the defendant himself of 29th August arid 31st October,
1937, will alter none of those facts. Hitler's speech was
made at the time of the first military successes and was
calculated to vindicate the success of his, that is,
Hitler's State leadership, and should be taken at its face
value. The speeches made by the defendant, however, say just
the opposite of what the prosecution sees fit to put into
them. For both speeches, Nos. 126 and 128 in my Document
Book IV, stress quite clearly the success of the peaceful
intentions of the German foreign policy conducted by the
defendant, and lay particular emphasis on the fact that the
results were obtained entirely by peaceful means and not by
means of force. In particular, the speech of 31st October,
1937, the last public speech of the defendant as Foreign
Minister, is actually a resume of his peace policy. That
this was and still is a correct resume the prosecution
itself has had to admit in this Court when, in the words of
one of the prosecutors, it specially quoted Hitler's speech
of 5th November, 1937, which was used by my client as an
excuse for his resignation, as the turning-point in German
foreign policy. Thus the prosecution acknowledged
unequivocally that, up to that day, German foreign policy
had not been an aggressive policy of force, or pursued any
warlike plans or intentions of war, but had been peaceful
throughout. Indeed it could not have been otherwise, in view
of the defendant's political and humane creed, and this has
been unanimously confirmed by all witnesses examined here
and in all of the questionnaires and affidavits in my
document books.

This creed was built on three main pillars: love for his
fellow men, love of the fatherland, and love of peace, all
three springing from and sustained by a very deep sense of
responsibility towards himself, towards his God, and towards
his people.

When a few days after the occupation of Czechoslovakia
Hitler called the defendant to Vienna from his well-deserved
otium cum dignitate on his estate and told him that he had
been selected as Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia, it
was this same sense of responsibility which made him feel it
to be his duty to accept this post. At first he was opposed
to the idea and struggled long with himself, for he had
always been an inveterate opponent of any interference in
the affairs of other nations, let alone the more or less
forcible annexation of a country to the German Reich.

It was for this reason that he had also condemned the
annexation of Czechoslovakia and the so-called protective
alliance entered into with President Hacha, although at that
time he had not the slightest idea of how this really came
about. He came to know of the true facts of this incident
for the first time here in Nuremberg.

In spite of his reluctance to accept a public office once
more, especially at his age, and to serve again under.
Hitler and his regime, of which he heartily disapproved,

                                                  [Page 310]

his sense of responsibility towards his people and his
humane principles led him to be persuaded that it would be
wrong to refuse this mission. When Hitler explained to him
that he had chosen him as being the only man possessing the
necessary qualities to reconcile the Czechoslovakian people
with the new conditions and with the German people, which
Hitler said was his desire, he could not fail to recognize
that the task which was being given to him was one which, in
the interests of the German people, of humanity and of
international understanding, he ought not to refuse. And was
it not indeed a task worthy of the utmost effort to appease
by just government and humane treatment a people who would
regard every restriction and encroachment on their liberty
and independence as the worst injustice that could be done
to them, and who would be filled with deadly hatred and
resentment towards a people they felt to be an intolerable
oppressor and to reconcile them with these very people and
the conditions for which they were directly responsible?

But was not this aim in line with the endeavour to ensure
and preserve peace, which clearly and unequivocally pervaded
his whole foreign policy? And he had every justification for
telling himself that if he refused this task, then another
man from Hitler's entourage would in all probability be
nominated Reich Protector, who would be neither able nor
willing to conciliate the Czech people by humane and just
treatment  - and who, on the contrary, would be more
inclined to hold them down by force and terror, as indeed
happened two and a half years later. Such were the thoughts
and considerations which led him to accept the appointment
offered him, setting aside all personal interests and
willing to face the risk that this might be interpreted and
held against him in some quarters as denoting approval and
support of Hitler and his regime, for Hitler had made him
the definite and firm promise that he would at all times be
willing to support his (the defendant's) intended policy of
appeasing and reconciling the Czech people by humane and
just treatment, and of furthering the interests of the Czech
people to the greatest extent.

He was fully aware that the task which he had accepted was a
difficult one. I do not hesitate to admit that it was here a
question of a decision, the justification of which could -
if one admits the point of view put forward here by the
British Prosecutor that it was immoral to remain in a
government which should be repudiated because of its
amorality - cause embarrassment to a man whose thoughts and
dealings were different from those of the defendant von
Neurath; but having in mind the character of von Neurath,
which I hope has been described to you clearly enough, and
his deep sense of responsibility, this decision was the only
possible and logical one. It is a veritable tragedy,
resembling those of the ancient Greeks, that the failure of
this mission, which had been undertaken with the highest
ethical motives, should have brought the defendant von
Neurath into this dock.

But at this point, I should like to make the following
comments on the prosecution's attempt by means of the
photostatic documents which it submitted under No. 3859
consisting of a letter from the defendant to the Chief of
the Reich. Chancellery Lammers dated 31st August, 1940, and
its alleged appendices, to discredit the defendant's
assertion that in assuming his office as Reichsprotektor his
sole aim was to appease and reconcile the Czech people by
safeguarding to the utmost their interests and their way of
life, and thus work for the well-being of this people and
their prosperity as a nation.

I believe that the second examination of the defendant,
which the Tribunal, in its readiness to help, granted to me,
has proved that those documents, particularly the two
reports attached to the letter to Lammers, which indeed
cannot be reconciled with the intentions and tendencies of
the defendant as mentioned above, have no evidentiary value.
Not only do those photostatic copies in no way tally - and
the defendant has made a statement to this effect - with the
contents and the form, that is, the length of the originals
attached to the letter to Lammers and which had been
submitted to the defendant for signature and approved by
him, but they give rise in several places to well-founded
doubts as to whether the photo

                                                  [Page 311]

static copies of the said documents are really identical
with the annexes to the letter addressed to Lammers, and
this owing to the following facts:

In contrast to the practice adopted by all administration
offices, neither of the photostatic copies bears the
reference number of the letters to Lammers, or even a note
that they are annexes to a third document, let alone to the
Lammers letter. Neither does the photostatic copy of the
first report bear the defendant's signature, which,
according to his definite statement, when he signed the
letter to Lammers, he added to the report annexed to it,
which report had been drawn up by himself or by his office
according to his instructions and submitted to him in a fair

Another thing which strikes one is that it only bears a
correction note of the copy which should have been, but
actually was not, signed by a SS Obersturmfuehrer working in
the office of State Secretary Frank. Those facts support the
defendant's assertion that, if the reports from which the
photostatic copies have been made were in fact annexed to
the Lammers letter, they have been substituted for the
original report of the defendant and for Frank's report, the
draft of which was approved by the defendant, in the office
of State Secretary Frank which was entrusted with the
dispatch, either by the latter or by his orders.
Furthermore, the defendant's statement, made by him in order
to explain the purpose of this Lammers letter and its
annexes, is quite worthy of belief, namely, in the same way
as was intended by the plan contained in General Friderici's
report dated 15th October, 1940, submitted under US 65 L
150, to induce Hitler by reporting verbally to him, and on
the basis of the two reports sent, to abstain from dividing
the Protectorate territory and from Germanising the Czech
people in any way, and to prohibit any such plans, a course
which the defendant repudiated for many reasons, but chiefly
because he had at heart the interests of the Czech nation
which had been entrusted to him, and its national character
and unity. 

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