The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Moreover it is also due to the defendant's
personal intervention that in 1941 the order Hitler issued
at Frank's and Himmler's instigation for the removal and
arrest of the then Czech Prime Minister, General Elias, was
rescinded. Only after he had left was Elias arrested by
Heydrich and later condemned to death by the People's Court.

Definitely wrong is the allegation of the Czech witness
Bienert that the defendant had arranged for the
transportation of Czech workers into the Reich, that is that
he deported Czech workers by force into Germany. It is, on
the contrary, true that, during the whole term of office of
the defendant, not a single Czech worker was deported by
force to Germany.

Until 27th September, 1941, no compulsory deportation of
labourers had yet taken place in any territory occupied by
Germany. That happened later. But many Czech labourers
voluntarily and gladly went to the Reich and accepted jobs
there, as owing to the established currency exchange rate
and to higher wages they earned much more there than in
Prague, and could send a great deal of their earnings to
their relatives in the Protectorate.

If the Czech prosecution wants further to charge the
defendant with the sending by the Gestapo of arrested
persons to concentration camps, and with the ill-treatment
of those individuals there, it must be stated with the
utmost precision that until 27th September, 1941, the end of
the official activity of the defendant in the Protectorate,
not a single concentration camp existed in the Protectorate.
They were all established only after his departure under his
successor. The decree, too, concerning protective and
preventive custody, with which the Czech prosecution
apparently wishes to charge him, was issued only after his
departure, on 9th March, 1942; as shown by, the copy annexed
to the Czech report (USSR 60).

Lastly, as regards the charges of the Indictment concerning
the alleged measures taken by the defendant against the
Jews, on this point, too, the representation of the
Indictment does not correspond to the facts, and is shown to
be erroneous on closer examination of the documents
submitted by the prosecution itself.

Of the total of twenty-one decrees contained in the British
Document Book 12-B, only four were signed by the defendant
himself, six were issued by the Reich Ministry direct, ten
by State Secretary Frank, or his direct subordinate, Dr. von
Burgsdorff, and one by the Czech State President, Hacha.

The decree signed by Herr von Neurath himself on 21st June,
1939, which contained nothing but the introduction of
regulations valid for the entire German Reich concerning
treatment of Jewish property in the Protectorate (which,

                                                  [Page 321]

16th March, 1939, was also a part of the German Reich) had
been laid down for the defendant by Berlin when he assumed
office. The fact, however, that it was published, three
months later, proves the correctness of his statement, that
he wanted to give the Jews time to prepare themselves for
the introduction of the Jewish legislation as in force
throughout the Reich. Its postponement to that day was
expressly in the interests of the Jews.

The second decree issued by the defendant himself on 16th
September, 1940, merely prescribed an obligation to declare
securities, i.e., mortgages, which were Jewish property, and
corresponded to the various decrees of the same or similar
kind issued in the German Reich too, and applicable to all
German nationals.

The third decree, issued and signed by himself, of 5th
March, 1940, as well as the fourth, of 14th September, 1940,
as clearly shown by their contents, aimed at making possible
and facilitating Jewish emigration which the course of
events in the Reich had made inevitable. Both decrees had
accordingly been issued in the interests of the Jews
themselves, and prove that the defendant had no anti-Semitic

All the documents submitted by me which refer to this
matter, among others the newspaper report concerning the
boycott of the Jews in the spring of 1933 - Document Book 1,
No. 9 - and the submitted depositions of witnesses, show
that he did not approve of the measures taken against the
Jews, particularly measures of violence, but opposed them.
As shown especially by the deposition of the witness, Dr.
Kopke, such measures would have been in contradiction to his
completely Christian and human attitude and ideology. It is
confirmed that until his departure from Prague not a single
synagogue had been closed, and that no religious
restrictions against the Jews had been decreed. It does not
need any particular proof to show that the defendant cannot
be made responsible for the six ordinances issued by the
Reich Ministry of the Interior. But neither does he bear any
responsibility for the decrees signed by Frank and by Herr
von Burgsdorff, in view of the independent position of State
Secretary Frank and the competence of the police concerning
all Jewish matters, which I have described. In opposition to
the assertions of the indictment it must be particularly
emphasized that, according to his own sworn deposition, no,
persecution of the Jews occurred during his entire tenure of

His aforementioned human and Christian attitude and ideology
makes the assertions in the Czech report of 4th September,
1945, concerning the alleged hostility of the defendant to
the Church, appear as hardly likely.

It is true that the Czech Indictment of 14th November, 1945,
does not make this report the object of an accusation, but,
nevertheless, I should like to speak about it briefly. It is
proved by evidence that the relations between Herr von
Neurath and the Archbishop of Prague were very good, even
friendly, and that the latter explicitly thanked the
defendant for his support of the Churches. This would
certainly not have been the case if he had been opposed to
the Church or if he had suppressed the Churches, their
organizations and clergy or persecuted them in any way. It
is certainly not an extraordinary occurrence that there may
have been differences in official matters, as obviously was
the case according to the letter of the Archbishop submitted
by the prosecution; State and Church always have had
differences with one another at all times and in all
countries - but this cannot under any circumstances be
construed as implying, on the defendant's side, a policy
opposed to the Church. It may be that members of the clergy
were arrested, but, in the first place, such arrests were
ordered not by the defendant but by the police, who were not
under his control and secondly - if the defendant knew of
them at all - not on account of any Church activity, but
because of political intrigue. Neither is it clear from the
mentioned Czech report whether the alleged actions against
the Church, its organizations and clergy actually took place
during the defendant's tenure of office. The evidence has
shown that he did not decree any anti-ecclesias-

                                                  [Page 322]

tical or anti-religious measures. Pilgrimages to the Czech
religious shrines, for example, were especially permitted by

At this point I would also like to emphasize that the
defendant was not guilty of injuring Czech national feeling
in any way. Contrary to the assertion of the prosecution, he
did not destroy or close any Masaryk houses, as the
prosecution would like to charge against him. As far as any
Masaryk houses were closed, the SS and the police, which
were not under his jurisdiction, are exclusively
responsible. His attitude towards the Czech national feeling
is best illustrated by the fact that he especially permitted
the customary deposition of wreaths at the Masaryk

Nor did the defendant take measures hostile to culture, in
spite of all efforts made in that direction by radical
elements. Czech theatre life was not touched and remained
free, as well as Czech literature, which was not suppressed
or encroached upon, with the exception, of course, that
anything of an anti-German or inciting character was
prohibited. Also the Press - which, incidentally, was not
controlled or censored by him, but by the Reich Ministry for
Propaganda - was not submitted to any other limitations than
the German Press, as the defendant's efforts altogether were
directed towards conserving and encouraging Czech national
and cultural life in its characteristic quality and
independence. I believe it is not necessary for me to go
still further into details about that subject, and that I
can confine myself to referring to the defendant's own
statements and the statements of the German witnesses about

The testimony of these witnesses shows clearly with what
difficulties and opposition on the part of certain radical
circles and authorities, not least on the part of his own
State Secretary Frank, he had to contend in these efforts of
his and in his general policy towards the Czech people.

If one wants to summarize his official activities, one may
say that his entire life in Prague was one long struggle, a
struggle against the forces inspired and led by Himmler, a
struggle which was all the more difficult because he did not
actually possess full powers in the Protectorate, and
because the offices and authorities which were the most
important and influential in the field of home politics, the
entire police and the Gestapo, were not subordinate to him.
Nevertheless, he did not abandon this struggle, and never
grew tired of protesting to Hitler again and again and
demanding redress, in many cases successfully, in others
not. He fought up to the very end, he did not allow failures
to discourage him and he remained faithful to his policy of
reconciliation and compromise, of pacification and
conservation of the Czech people and of its national
characteristics. And when here again he was forced to
recognize, in the autumn of 1941, that to continue his fight
was hopeless, that Himmler's influence on Hitler was greater
than his own and that Hitler had now decided to change over
to a policy of force and terror and to send Heydrich to
Prague for this purpose - Heydrich, who was known as a
bloodhound - he immediately, just as in the winter of
1937/38 as Minister of Foreign Affairs, saw the
consequences, resigned his post, left Prague, and retired to
private life for good.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps this would be a convenient time to

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit in open session on
Saturday morning until one o'clock.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: What impression this resignation
created on the Czech people, even the circles most hostile
to Germany, and what interpretation was put on it, appears
with a clarity that can hardly be surpassed from the Czech
report - USSR 60 - which was truly not dictated by pro-
German sentiments or love for my client - and which
characterised this departure of my client as a "gehoriger
Schlag" in the German text, "a heavy blow" in the English

                                                  [Page 323]

thereby actually disavowing its own accusations against Herr
von Neurath. And indeed I think I have proved that, while
discharging the duties of his office, the defendant was not
personally guilty of a single crime against humanity
punishable under the Charter of this Tribunal, and only such
crime could, after all, be considered here.

And now the basic question of this trial arises: Did the
defendant become guilty, that is, guilty in a manner
punishable under the Charter, of supporting or aiding Hitler
and his accomplices in the commission of their crimes by
accepting the office of Reich Protector and by keeping it,
in spite of the war launched by Hitler a few months after
his assumption of this office, and in spite of the events in
November, 1939, and several other occurrences? The
prosecution answers this question in the affirmative. But
can an objective impartial judgement of matters really lead
to this affirmative answer?

One thing should be absolutely certain, after what we have
heard here from the defendant himself, from the witnesses
whom I questioned on the subject, and from the affidavits
which I presented.

Herr von Neurath was not moved by external or material
reasons to enter and remain in Hitler's Government as
Minister for Foreign Affairs. Such reasons were similarly
not responsible for his acceptance of the post of Reich
Protector. This is already proved by the fact that he
declined the donation which Hitler intended to present to
him on his 70th birthday in 1943; and when this was not
practicable, he had this donation placed in his bank, as I
have proved on the basis of the letter from his bank -
Document Book V, Nos. 160 and 161 - and did not touch one
penny of it.

And how little the supposedly illustrious position of the
Reich Protector attracted or suited him is clearly evident
from his letter of 14th October, 1939, to the witness Dr.
Kopke - Document Book V, No. 16 - in which he calls it and
compares it to a prison.

In both cases, as has been proved not only by the
defendant's own statements, but also by the statements of
all the witnesses and documents which I have introduced, the
motive or the reason for the acceptance of and perseverance
in his position was not by any chance his approval of the
ideologies of the Nazi regime with all its methods and his
wish to support them; but on the contrary, his high ethical
and moral convictions which sprang from his deep sense of
responsibility as a human being and as a statesman towards
his people. Since he was not in the position and had not the
power to remove Hitler and the Nazi regime, he considered it
his duty, at least in a limited way, within the compass and
limits of his power and in the sphere entrusted to his
direction, to fight the Nazi tendencies which he also
despised, and to prevent their materialisation, as far as
his own strength permitted.

Can one, I ask, really reproach Herr von Neurath for doing
this, can one condemn him, because the task he had assumed
with a sense of moral duty and a consciousness of
responsibility was beyond his strength and he failed in it?

May I ask you, your Honours, to free yourselves of all
juridical and political prejudices, of the retrospective
view of things with its surely very unreliable deductions,
and to penetrate into the soul of this man, his world of
thoughts and his conception of life. Brought up in a home
inspired by Christian, humane and respectable ideas, and
also by a sense of responsibility towards the German people,
he had grown up and reached the age of 60 in a civil service
career under the various governments, first under the
Imperial Government, then under the changing governments of
the Republic. Without paying attention to their political
trends, without asking whether they were conservative,
democratic or social democratic, he had served them and had
carried out the tasks assigned to him in his sphere of work.
As a diplomat, as an official of the Reich's Foreign

                                                  [Page 324]

Service, the field of internal politics was completely
remote from him. He considered it his sole duty to serve his
people as such, regardless of the government in office and
its inner political attitude.

And thus, much against his personal wishes, upon
Hindenburg's call in the hour of distress, he took over the
Foreign Ministry and thereby entered the Government of the
Reich and remained in it also after Hitler was appointed,
not as the representative of any particular political party,
but as Hindenburg's special confidant in the field of
foreign politics. He was the guarantor of the Reich's peace
policy, the "rocher de bronze" in this field.

His entire education, his sense of responsibility towards
his people, would not permit him to do anything else than to
remain at his post when he was drawn into the whirl and
dynamics of the National Socialist movement and then
necessarily saw how this movement was turning in a direction
and making use of means which he, too, could only condemn.

But just as their sense of responsibility and duty to their
own people had driven other respectable and patriotic
Germans to the decision to remove Hitler and the Nazi regime
by force, so it was with the defendant whose sense of
responsibility and duty, not only towards himself, but also
towards his people, forced him to set aside his personal
abhorrence of the immorality of this regime and, by
remaining in office and continuing to conduct its affairs
according to his own principles, to fight actively against
this immorality and thus at least keep it away from the
department under his control and protect the German people
from this immorality of the Nazi regime and its
consequences, namely, war, as long as he was able to do so.

And then, a year and a half after his resignation, when the
call came to him again to accept a position, this time as
Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and Hitler declared
to him that he had expressly selected him for this position
because he considered him the only suitable person to carry
out his intended policy of real reconciliation of the Czech
people with the new conditions and with the German people,
the very same sense of duty and responsibility forced him to
follow this call, for was it not natural for him to deduce
from the fact that Hitler - in spite of knowing his
opposition to the National Socialist regime, its policies
and its methods - desired to entrust him with this task, and
that Hitler really and honestly meant to effect a
reconciliation and appeasement of the Czech people?

Here he was confronted with a task the achievement of which
would not only be of the highest benefit to his own, but
also to the Czech nation, a task which not only served for
the reconciliation of two nations, but also for the ideal of
humanity and Christian brotherly love, as well as for the
protection of the Czech people from the pernicious methods
of the Nazi regime.

And now I ask: Is it not at least just as moral and ethical
to pledge one's self and one's person for such a goal, to
work actively, if only to a limited extent, against this
regime, which one has recognized and repudiated as immoral
and corrupt, through an apparent, if only outwardly
apparent, co-operation, to prevent the use of the methods of
this system, and thereby to save innocent people from misery
and death, than to withdraw grumblingly out of personal
aversion and to look on inactive while this regime rages
against humanity without restraint?

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