The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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This scepticism of the defendant as regards the political
situation in general, and prospects of the Disarmament
Conference in particular, were only too well founded. For
the new so-called Simon Plan-submitted even before the
Conference started by Sir John Simon, head of the English
Delegation, as a basis for negotiations - and to no less a
degree the statement relative thereto made by Sir John, made
it clear beyond doubt that the attitude of the Western
Powers still continued to be the same as in the spring of
1933 and that they were even still less disposed to do
justice to Germany's demand for an equality of rights. For
Sir John. declared in plain language that in view of the
present non-clarified conditions in Europe, and considering
the seriously shaken confidence in peace, a disarmament
conference, even according to the pattern of the MacDonald
Plan, which Germany had declared unacceptable in the spring,
was an impossibility.

This not only meant bringing an unjustified accusation
against Germany - which had done no more but stand on the
rights accorded it by treaty - but it also was a clear
denial of any kind of realization of Germany's equality of
rights and of

                                                  [Page 284]

disarmament. As a matter of fact, this Simon Plan fell even
farther short than previous plans in doing justice to
Germany's rightful demand for equality of rights and
disarmament, that is, a balancing of all States' armament in
accordance with one another, including Germany.

Time being too short, I once more have to refrain here from
going into detail and must confine myself to pointing out
that it meant an increased restriction and reduction of
German armament in favour of the other nations. For it
provided that during the first half of the eight years'
duration of the proposed disarmament, Germany alone -
through the conversion of its Reichswehr into an army with a
brief period of service - would practically be still further
disarmed, subjecting herself, in addition, to an armament
control by the powers, while the highly armed powers were
not scheduled to begin disarming until the fifth year, and
then only in terms of manpower reserve, not in terms of
arms. These provisions demonstrated more clearly than ever
that not only did the Western Powers not intend to disarm,
but that they wanted to weaken Germany still more and make
her tractable to their power interests. There was no more
mention made of the fact that the Five-Power Agreement of
11th December, 1932, had agreed to recognize Germany's
equality of rights.

It really should have been clear to the Western Powers as
well that such a plan depriving her of a chance to
participate in further negotiations at the Conference was
bound to be unacceptable to Germany from the outset.
However, on the strength of the lessons which German foreign
policy learned in the spring of 1933 - when Germany came
very near having the Western Powers threaten her with war
because she was unwilling to renounce her just demands -
nothing was left to her this time but to answer the new
threat which this plan undoubtedly involved, not only by
rejecting the plan but also by withdrawing from the
Disarmament Conference as well as the League of Nations.
Further negotiations during the conference under such
conditions were deemed hopeless from the very start and
could only result in a still greater heightening of
contrasts.

It is difficult to understand why the Western Powers failed
to foresee Germany's attitude and were surprised by her
withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Disarmament
Conference. In Hitler's speech, already referred to here, an
appeal for peace, delivered on 17th May, 1933, he expressed
in unequivocal terms that notwithstanding the sincere will
for peace and honest readiness for still further disarmament
- provided it were mutual - entertained by the German
Government and the German people, they would never consent
to further humiliation and to renunciation of her claim for
equality of rights but that, if such was the demand, they
would rather assume the consequences without hesitation.
Still more incomprehensible is the fact that in all
earnestness the prosecution places the blame for this
withdrawal by Germany on her foreign policy, and that it
believes it can find evidence of deliberate action for the
preparation of wars of aggression; and this can only be
understood by the fact that the prosecution preserves a
complete silence on the reasons and happenings which led up
to this withdrawal and thereby tries to create the
impression that Germany's withdrawal occurred entirely
without cause. The extent to which the prosecution's attempt
to interpret the withdrawal as an action in preparation for
war is contrary to objective history becomes clearly
apparent from the fact - which the prosecution also passed
over in silence - that concurrent with its declaration of
withdrawal, the German Government, through Hitler's speech
of 14th October, 1933, as well as also through the speech of
the defendant won Neurath of 18th October, 1933 (Document
Book II, Nos. 58 and 59), not only declared with all
possible emphasis its unchanging desire for peace and
readiness to negotiate in the case of any disarmament plan
which would consider Germany's equality of rights, but also
tried to carry into practice this willingness to negotiate
by submitting on her part practical proposals for general
disarmament, is set forth in the memorandum prepared by my
client and submitted to the Powers on 18th December, 1933
(Document Book II, No. 61).

                                                  [Page 285]

The interview granted by the defendant to the representative
of the New York Times in Berlin (Document Book II, No. 62)
is an expression of the same endeavour. A government or a
foreign minister who intend to prepare, or even plan, an
aggressive war are hardly likely to make proposals for
limiting or even reducing still further the armament of
countries, including their own.

Diplomatic negotiations between Germany and the individual
Western Powers which followed the memorandum of 18th
December, 1933, ended, as I may presume to be well known,
with the note of the French Government to the English
Government of 17th April, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 70),
which closed the door to further negotiations as proposed in
an English memorandum of 29th January, 1934 as well as
another memorandum of the German Government of 13th March,
1934 as this was fully stated in the speech of the defendant
won Neurath on 27th April, 1934 (Document Book III No. 70).

The fact which appeared in the preceding discussions is
interesting and must be emphasized here, that in their
course an indisputable change was shown in relations between
France and Russia, the further development of which became
more or less authoritative, not only for German foreign
policy, but also for the entire European policy in the
coming years. The Russian representative in his speech in
the office of the Disarmament Conference on 10th April,
1934, took the stand, contrary to the point of view always
previously represented by Russia, that the task of the
Disarmament Conference was to decide on a most wide-reaching
reduction of armaments, as thereby security would be best
provided for, and though he admitted the failure of their
disarmament efforts, he did not, however, draw the
conclusion therefrom that the Conference had broken down,
but on the contrary defined creation of new security
instruments of International Law as the sole task of the
Disarmament Conference, a point of view which was underlined
further by the Russian Foreign Minister Litvinov on 29th
April, 1934. With this thesis Russia had adopted France's
point of view: First security, then disarmament; and beyond
that the door was opened to the increased armament exertions
of all nations. It becomes evident immediately of what far-
reaching importance this fact was, if I refer to the French-
Russian Assistance Pact which was signed one year later and
which induced the re-establishment of German armed
sovereignty, occasioned by this and by the increase in
armament of all the remaining States. A direct route leads
from this declaration of the Russian Foreign Minister, via
the negotiations in the summer of 1934 regarding the project
of the so-called Eastern Pact, to the Franco-Russian
Assistance Pact of 2nd May, 1935, and the Russian-
Czechoslovak Assistance Pact of 16th May, 1935.

The French Note of 17th April, 1934, with its categorical
"No", signified the end of an epoch and the beginning of a
new one in international policy. France finally made it
understood that she was no longer willing to carry on with a
general agreement between all States aiming at a solution of
the questions of disarmament and security, but decided to go
her own different way from now on. The reason for this lay
obviously in the fact that she recognized, or thought she
had recognized, that the most important of the participating
Powers, England and Italy, were no longer prepared to follow
her unconditionally, and to continue to refuse Germany the
equality of rights theoretically granted her on 11th
December, 1932. This was expressed through the far-reaching
rapprochement of the English and Italian points of view in
the English Memorandum of 29th January, 1934, and in the
declaration of Mussolini to the English Minister Eden on
26th February, 1934, which dealt with the clearly outlined
German point of view in the Memoranda of 13th March and 16th
April, 1934.

A similar tendency was shown in the Memorandum of the so-
called neutral Powers, namely Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden
and Switzerland, of 14th April, 1934, but also, above all,
the speech of the Belgian Prime, Minister Count de
Brocqueville of 6th March, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 66),
showed the same tendency.

                                                  [Page 286]

With this note of 17th April, 1934, to which he referred in
his speech of 27th April, 1934 - (Document Book III; No. 74)
- before the German Press, the defendant von Neurath
explained his attitude thoroughly and convincingly. France,
as was soon apparent, finally abandoned the basis and the
principles of the Versailles Treaty, the preamble to Part V
of which fixed in an unmistakable manner the general
disarmament of all States of the League of Nations as the
basis and the counter-obligation for the disarmament of
Germany. The new French policy set up immediately after the
note of 17th April, 1934, soon made it known that she had
decided to do exactly the opposite of the basic idea of the
Versailles Treaty regarding German disarmament.

On 20th April, 1934, the French Foreign Minister Louis
Barthou began his journey eastwards, which took him to
Warsaw and Prague, and first of all, as it soon transpired,
he tried to prepare the ground for the resumption of
diplomatic relations between the States of the so-called
Little Entente with Russia, which so far did not exist, and
thus prepare the way for the inclusion of the greatest
military power of Europe in European politics on the side of
France. He succeeded. Czechoslovakia and Roumania, the most
important States of the Little Entente, recognized and
renewed diplomatic relations with the Russian Government on
9th June, 1934. Thus France had made the first breach in the
ideological and psychological aversion at that time felt by
the European States against Soviet Russia, and the French
Minister for Foreign Affairs, then on his second journey to
the East, was not only able to win the consent of all States
of the Little Entente to the so-called Eastern Pact which
France had long ago been negotiating with Russia, but able
to place it openly on the agenda of International Policy in
London at the beginning of July. With this; as the
Czechoslovak Minister for Foreign Affairs, Benes, justly
stated in his speech of 2nd July, 1934 (Document Book III,
No. 81) a regrouping of the European Powers was announced
which appeared capable of overthrowing to a certain extent
all former relations on the Continent.

England, who already on 18th May, 1934, had stated through
the mouth of Stanley Baldwin, who at that time was Lord
President of the Council, before the House of Commons, that,
in view of the question of a system of so-called collective
peace, which of necessity would have to contain the need for
sanctions, she stood before one of the most difficult
decisions in her history - he coined the phrase: "Sanctions
are war" - gave her agreement in the beginning of July,
1934, on the occasion of the visit of Barthou to London, not
only to the Eastern Pact but in addition also to the entry
of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations, which had
been suggested by France. On 18th December, 1934, the League
of Nations officially resolved to accept the U.S.S.R. into
the League. Thus France had for the most part already
reached her goal, the inclusion of the U.S.S.R., the
strongest military power, into European politics, and,
indeed, at her side as would shortly be shown.

In spite of this heralded change of European power
conditions, German foreign policy under the direction of the
defendant not only continued calmly and consistently in its
peaceful struggle for the practical recognition of German
equality - even after the French note of 17th April, 1934,
which it considered disastrous - but also its policy of
peace. In his speech of 27th April, 1934, already previously
quoted, my client once more and unreservedly expressed the
will of Germany, namely that she was also in future prepared
for any sort of an understanding even at the price of
further armament limitations by agreement, if this would
correspond with her demand for equality. She did not,
however, limit herself to this alone. In order to resume the
international discussions and negotiations regarding the
disarmament question, which had been interrupted by France's
"No" of 17th April, 1934, Hitler met Mussolini in Venice in
the middle of June, 1934. The purpose and subjects of
discussion at this meeting were at that time summarised by
Mussolini with the words: "We have met in order to try to
disperse the clouds which are darkening the political
horizon of Europe."

                                                  [Page 287]

May I, then, for the sake of prudence, recall the fact that
Italy at that time was still entirely on the side of the
Western Powers. Several days later, in his speech at the
Gautag at Gera on 17th June, 1934 (Document Book III, No.
60), Hitler used the opportunity to emphasize once more his
and Germany's unshakeable wish for peace when he stated
literally amongst other things:

  "If anyone says to us: 'If you National Socialists wish
  equality for Germany, then we must increase our
  armaments', then we can only say: 'As far as we are
  concerned, you can do so, because after all we have no
  intention of attacking you. We merely wish to be so
  strong that the others will have no wish to attack us.
  The more the world speaks of the formation of blocs, the
  clearer it becomes to us that we must concern ourselves
  with the maintenance of our own power'."

It was the change of the power relationships which was
constantly taking more clearly defined shape, and the
realization of political tendencies, which were also the
bases of the English air armament programme, announced
before the House of Commons on 19th July, 1934, and the idea
which the French Prime Minister Doumergue expressed in his
speech of 13th October, 1934, at the bier of the
assassinated Minister, Louis Barthou, with the words: "The
weak nations are booty or a danger." No matter how
irrefutably correct this idea really was, as far as the
attitude of the Western Powers toward Germany was concerned,
it received as little consideration as all attempts of
German foreign policy to carry on the negotiations regarding
the disarmament question and as the repeated declarations of
Germany about her preparedness for an understanding. Now, as
before, Germany was denied the de facto recognition of her
equality. Apart from the encirclement policy of France which
became more discernible every day, this fact also made it
impossible for German foreign policy to join the Eastern
Pact. The reasons for this refutation of the Eastern Pact
have been presented in detail in the communique of the
German Government of 10th September, 1934 (Document Book
III, No. 85). They culminated in the statement that Germany,
in view of her indisputable military weakness and
inferiority, could not take on any treaty obligations
towards the highly armed States which might involve her in
possible conflicts in the East, and could make her a
probable theatre of operations.

It was not the lack of preparedness to participate in
international treaties or even a lack of a will for peace
which caused Germany to maintain this attitude, but first
and foremost her notorious military weakness. Added to this
was the true character of France's policy which showed
itself more and more, and that of the Eastern Pact as an
instrument of the French policy of encirclement directed
against Germany. This character became clear to all the
world when, in the session of the Army Committee of the
French Cabinet on 23rd November, 1934, the reporter
Archimbaud described it as an undeniable fact that a formal
entente existed between France and Russia, on the basis of
which, in the event of a conflict, France would be prepared
to furnish a considerable, well-equipped and well-trained
army (Document Book III, No. 89). This fact, however, was
clearly and openly proved by the declaration of the French
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laval, on 20th January, 1935,
before a representative of the Russian newspaper Izvestia,
in connection with the Franco-Russian Record of 5th
December, 1934 (Document Book III, No. 91), and Litvinov's
interpretations of it of 9th December, 1934. For those well
informed there could exist no further doubt of the existence
of a close French-Russian alliance, even if the ratification
of its final text only took place on 2nd May, 1935, and was
then immediately followed by the ratification of the Russo-
Czechoslovak Non-Aggression Pact of 16th May, 1935.

It was, of necessity, forced upon the mind of every clear-
thinking person that such a perfect system of French
alliance bore a desperate likeness to the one which had
opposed Germany once already in the year 1914. This
involuntary parallel was bound to make every German
statesman draw the conclusion that those alliances could
only be directed against Germany and constituted
accordingly, in every

                                                  [Page 288]

case, a menace to her. And this much more so, as these
alliances, this obvious encirclement of Germany, were by no
means the only alarming events. Coupled with it, a vast
increase in military armaments of nearly all non-German
countries had been carried out in the course of the
preceding months. Not only had England begun to carry, out
her large-scale armament programme, as is shown by the
British White Book of 1st March, 1935, the submission of
which does not seem necessary, since it is an official
historical document, but in France, too, the efforts to
reinforce her army had begun, under the guidance of Marshal
Petain, her most popular general at that time; while in
Russia an increase in the peace-time figure of her army from
600,000 to 940,000 men had taken place, with the joyful
acquiescence of France. Czechoslovakia had introduced a two-
year compulsory service in December, 1934 (Document Book
III, No. 92), and Italy, too, was continually increasing her
armaments.

After the bitter experiences of the latter years, all this
was bound to be felt from the point of view of German
politics, as I have shown you, my Lords, as nothing but a
vast menace, and interpreted accordingly, a menace which
left Germany all but defenceless.

A foreign policy, conscious of its responsibility, had to
reckon at each moment with the danger that such a
concentrated and continually increasing power of France and
her allies could fall upon Germany and crush her. For
nothing is more dangerous than a concentration of power in
one hand. According to old experience, it is bound to cause
an explosion some time, if not counter-balanced by some
other power, and this explosion is then directed towards the
nearest country considered as an enemy. This latter was and
could be only Germany, as this country alone was considered
by France as her foe, and no other country in the world
besides her.

And now I beg to ask you, my Lords, whether it was not an
obvious corollary, a demand of self-defence, an obvious
demand of the most primitive instinct for self-preservation
of any living being - and nations, too, are living entities,
they too possess such an instinct for self-preservation -
that now the German Government and the German people took
back the military sovereignty, which had constantly been
denied them without any reason, and that they tried to take
measures of security against the menace hanging over Germany
by organising a military air force and by the law concerning
the establishing of a peace-time army of only 36 divisions
on the basis of compulsory military service. I refer to the
proclamation of the German Reich Cabinet concerning the
restoration of German compulsory service of 16th March, 1935
(Document Book II, No. 97).

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 24th July, 1946.)

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