The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/07/13

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. What did you do when this speech forced you to realize
these things?

A. About two days after this speech, I went to General von
Fritsch, who had been present on the occasion of this
speech; and together with him and the Chief of the General
Staff, Beck, I discussed what could be done to get Hitler to
change his ideas. We agreed that, first of all, General von
Fritsch, who was due to report to Hitler during the next few
days, should explain to him all the military considerations
which made this policy inadvisable. Then I intended to
explain the political reasons to him.

Unfortunately Hitler left for Obersalzberg soon afterwards
and could not receive or did not wish to receive me before
his departure. I could not see Hitler until 14th or 15th
January. On that occasion I tried to show him that his
policy would lead to a world war, and that I would have no
part of it. Many of his plans could be realised by peaceful
means, even if the process was slower. He answered that he
could not wait any longer. I called his attention to the
danger of war and to the serious warnings of the generals. I
reminded him of his speech to the Reichstag in 1933 in which
he himself had declared every new war to be sheer madness
and so forth. When, despite all my arguments, he still stuck
to his opinions, I told him that he would have to find
another Foreign Minister, and that I would not be an
accessory to such a policy. At first Hitler refused to
accept my resignation, but I insisted, and on 4th February
he gave me my release without further comment.

Q. Did you have the impression; Herr von Neurath, that
Hitler decided to grant your release with reluctance, or
that by your request to be allowed to resign you met his
wishes half-way?

A. I believe the latter is the case. I believe Hitler had
been wanting it for some time -

THE PRESIDENT: That is not evidence. You cannot say what you
think another man thought.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Then, immediately after your resignation as Foreign
Minister, you were made President of the newly instituted
Secret Cabinet Council. What did that appointment mean?

A. As the witness Goering has already stated here, the
Secret Cabinet Council was set up for the sole purpose of
masking the change in foreign policy and change on the
military side. Several witnesses have testified to the fact
that the Secret Cabinet Council was never called together. I
might add that in actual practice, it would not have been
able to function, for since my resignation on 4th February,
I was cut off from all access to news concerning foreign
policy.

Q. Now, after your resignation as Foreign Minister, you kept
your title as Reich Minister. But were you still a member of
the Reich Cabinet or not?

                                                  [Page 129]

A. No. Apart from the fact that as far as I knew the Reich
Cabinet no longer functioned, because there were no longer
any sessions of the Reich Cabinet, the title "Reich
Minister" was just a nominal title which was not connected
with any activity or with any Government department. Unlike
the members of the Reich Government, I did not receive any
Government bills for signature.

Q. The prosecution states that in March of 1938 you
represented Ribbentrop as Foreign Minister during his
absence, and they deduce this from an entry in the diary of
General Jodl, which said, "Neurath in the meantime is taking
over the Foreign Office." Will you please comment on this?

A. After my resignation on 4th February, I was quite out of
touch with my former colleagues, and I withdrew myself
completely. However, I still remained in Berlin. On 11th
March, 1938, late in the afternoon, suddenly Hitler rang me
up in my apartment and asked me to come and see him. In the
ante-room I met, besides Herr von Papen, General von
Brauchitsch and a number of other high officials and
officers of his immediate entourage. Also Goering was in the
room with Hitler when I came in. Hitler told me that the
Anschluss with Austria was a fact, and that German troops
would cross the border in the night of the 11th and 12th.
When I objected and asked whether that had to be, Hitler
told me the reason why he did not wish to wait any longer.
He asked me what the Foreign Office should do, as the
Foreign Minister was absent in London at the time. I told
him quite clearly that we would probably receive protests to
which a reply would have to be sent. Apart from that we for
our part should make a statement to the Powers. There should
be no formal negotiations. I also told him that the Foreign
Minister should be immediately recalled from London. Goering
objected to this. Finally Hitler asked me to tell the State
Secretary of the Foreign Office what he had just told me, so
that the Foreign Office would know what was happening.

On 12th March, in the morning, I did as Hitler had
instructed, and passed on his description of events to the
State Secretary, who was the official representative of
Ribbentrop. Goering was appointed by Hitler to be his deputy
during the time he was absent. On the same day, I personally
told him about the letter addressed to me by the British
Ambassador containing the British protest against the
occupation of Austria. I told him that the Foreign Office
would submit a note of reply.

When this note had been drafted I told Goering about its
contents over the telephone. Goering, as Hitler's deputy,
asked me to sign the reply in his stead, since the British
Ambassador's letter had been addressed to me. Goering has
already stated this as a witness here in this courtroom;
hence the phrase in this letter which says, "in the name of
the Reich Government."

I repeatedly asked Goering to have Ribbentrop recalled from
London and to keep him informed. From the telephone
conversation between Goering and Ribbentrop which has
already been mentioned here, it appears that Goering did
this. The explanation why the British note was addressed to
me I found out only here through the testimony of Goering
when he said that on the evening of the 11th he himself had
told the British Ambassador that he, Goering was
representing Hitler during his absence and that Hitler had
asked me to advise him, if need be, on matters of foreign
policy.

The entry in Jodl's diary, about which I heard only here in
this Court, and which, strangely enough, is dated 10th March
- a time when I had not even put in an appearance - can
probably be attributed to the fact that somebody had seen me
on 11th March in the Reich Chancellery. In any case, I was
not active in any other way as Ribbentrop's deputy.

Q. Also you did not use stationery with the heading "Foreign
Office," did you?

A. The fact that I used stationery with the heading
"President of the Secret Cabinet Council," which I found in
a room of the Chancellery, and which was the only indication
that this legendary institution actually existed, also
proves

                                                  [Page 130]

that I did not represent the Foreign Office or the Foreign
Minister, otherwise I would have used Foreign Office
stationery.

Q. You answered the note of the British Ambassador on 12th
March, in the letter just described. The prosecution
reproaches you, asserting that the reasons given by you in
this letter and the description of events in Austria which
preceded the entry into the country are not correct. As I
assume the Tribunal is cognizant of the passages which form
the subject of this accusation, I think it is not necessary
to quote them. You also know these passages and I should
like to have your opinion.

A. The accusation that the contents of this reply are partly
incorrect is quite true. This is explained by the fact that
I had no other information except Hitler's communications
and the note is based on these communications. This is the
information which I had transmitted to the Foreign Office,
which was completely ignorant of the events. That was the
basis of the draft.

I should like to add that the incidents which led to the
Austrian Anschluss were never planned during my period of
office, and nothing of the kind was ever mentioned. Hitler
never had any definite foreign policy plans at all; rather,
he made decisions very suddenly and translated them into
action, so that even his closest associates had knowledge of
them only a few days in advance. The expression "Austrian
Anschluss," which is used here, and generally used is not
the same thing as what happened later and which was the
incorporation of Austria. It is this incorporation of
Austria that we are now concerned with. This incorporation
of Austria was conceived by Hitler at the very last moment
in Linz when the troops were marching in. A further proof
that the plan for invasion had not been made in advance is
the fact that Hitler a few days earlier had sent his Foreign
Minister to London to clear up some diplomatic formalities.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, I should like to
refer to an excerpt from the book by Sir Nevile Henderson,
Failure of a Mission, which has already been mentioned. This
excerpt is No. 129 in my Document took 4. I ask the Tribunal
to take judicial notice of this document.

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. During the Austrian crisis on 12th March, on the day
after the march in, you made a statement to the Czechoslovak
Ambassador in Berlin regarding the measures taken in respect
to Austria, and their effects on Czechoslovakia.

According to a report made by Dr. Mastny, the Czechoslovak
Minister in Berlin, about this discussion, you declared that
the German Government did not intend to take any steps
against Czechoslovakia but to uphold the arbitration treaty
concluded in the 'twenties with that State. Will you please
comment on this report, which is known to you and which is
to be found under No. 141 in my Document Book 5.

A. It is quite correct that on 12th March I made the said
statement to Dr. Mastny. The reason, however, for the
conversation and its gist was somewhat different from the
way he has described it. On 12th March, Ministerial Director
von Weizsaecker telephoned to me at my home, telling me that
the Czechoslovak Minister Mastny was with him and wanted to
know whether he could see me some time during the course of
the day. I asked Dr. Mastny to come to my apartment during
the afternoon. He did so, and asked me if I believed that
Hitler, after the Austrian Anschluss, would now undertake
something against Czechoslovakia as well. I replied that he
could set his mind at rest, that Hitler had told me on the
previous evening, in reply to my suggestion that the
Austrian Anschluss might create unrest in Czechoslovakia,
that he had no thoughts of undertaking anything against
Czechoslovakia. Mastny then asked me whether Germany still
considered herself bound by the agreement concluded in 1925.
On the strength of the answer given to me by Hitler, I was
able to confirm this with a clear conscience. Hitler had
added in this connection that he believed the relations with
Czechoslovakia would improve considerably. The settlement of
the Austrian Anschluss was after all a domestic affair.

                                                  [Page 131]

Mastny's report states that I spoke on Hitler's
instructions. However, that is not true. I merely referred
to my discussion with Hitler, which was fresh in my mind.
When Mastny in this report stresses the fact that I spoke as
the President of the Secret Cabinet Council, he may have
been using a manner of speech in order to give more weight
to his report.

Q. The prosecution alleges a certain divergence between the
statement made by you and the plans as expounded by Hitler
on 5th November, 1937, and accuses you, who knew very well
what these plans were, of being somewhat credulous when you
made that reassuring statement to Mastny.

A. In this discussion Hitler talked about war plans only in
a general way. There was no talk about an aggressive plan
against Czechoslovakia. Hitler said that if it came to war,
Czechoslovakia and Austria would have to be occupied first,
so that our right flank would be kept free. The form of this
or any other attack on Czechoslovakia, and whether there
would be any conflict at all in the East, was doubtful and
open to discussion.

In effect, the Sudetenland, which strategically held the key
position of the Czech defence, was then ceded in a peaceful
manner by agreement with the Western Powers. Concrete plans
for a war against Czechoslovakia, as General Jodl has
testified, were not given to the General Staff for
elaboration until the end of May, 1938. I learned for the
first time here about the existence of these plans. For the
rest, when Hitler told me that he would do nothing against
Czechoslovakia, I had to believe that this was his real
intention; in other words, that he had given up his ideas as
set forth on 5th November, 1937

That is all I can say about the Czechoslovakian question.

THE PRESIDENT: Shall we break off?

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

VON NEURATH - Resumed

DIRECT EXAMINATION - Continued

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN:

Q. Herr von Neurath, in the Indictment there is mention of a
conference of 28th May, 1938, at which Hitler, von
Ribbentrop, Goering and the Commanders-in-Chief of the
Wehrmacht branches were present and at which it is asserted,
in the affidavit of Herr Wiedemann, that you were also
present.

A. I cannot at all remember any such conference, nor the
statement of Hitler which was mentioned by Wiedemann.
Moreover, Keitel, Ribbentrop, Goering and Raeder knew
nothing of this conference. Perhaps it is a mistake or it is
being confused with the conference mentioned by Schmundt of
22nd or 28th April, 1938, but I was not present at this
conference; I was not in Berlin at all.

Q. After your resignation, you had withdrawn completely to
private life. In the Sudeten crisis, in the autumn of 1938,
did you take an active part and advocate a peaceful policy?

A. Yes. After my dismissal in February, 1938, I lived on my
estate. On about 26th September I received a telephone call
from one of my former ministerial colleagues informing me
that Hitler had instructed the Wehrmacht to be ready to
march by 28th September. Apparently he wanted to solve the
Sudeten question by force. I was asked to come to Berlin
immediately and attempt to dissuade Hitler from his
intention.

In the night I went to Berlin. After my arrival I inquired
at the Foreign Office about the situation and reported to
Hitler that I was there. I was sent away. Nevertheless on
the 28th I went to the Reich Chancellery and there I met
Hitler's entire entourage ready to march. I inquired for
Hitler and was told that he was in his office but would
receive no one. Nevertheless, I went to the door and entered
Hitler's room. When he saw me he asked, in a harsh voice:

                                                  [Page 132]

"What do you want here?" I answered that I wanted to point
out to him the consequences of this intended step. I
explained to hire that he would bring on a European war,
probably a world war, if he were to march into
Czechoslovakia while negotiations were still in progress on
the Sudeten problem; that Czechoslovakia would doubtless
resist and it would not be an easy struggle, and in any case
it would involve France and England and Poland. I told him
that it would be a crime he could never answer for to shed
so much blood unless all possibilities of peaceful
settlement had been exhausted. I knew that Mr. Chamberlain
was prepared to come to Germany again and that he was also
prepared to induce the Czechs to turn over the Sudetenland
if that could prevent war.

THE PRESIDENT: How did you know that Mr. Chamberlain would
be willing to come?

THE WITNESS: Because I had met the English Ambassador in the
street.

THE PRESIDENT: Go on.

THE WITNESS: Hitler was not interested. During our talk,
however, Goering had appeared and he supported me in my
efforts to persuade Hitler to have a further conference with
Chamberlain. Finally Hitler agreed, if I could bring
Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini to Berlin by the next
day. As that was impossible for Mussolini, I suggested
Munich as the place for negotiations. I immediately
established contact with the English and French Ambassadors,
who were both on their way to see Hitler. Hitler himself
telephoned directly to Mussolini, and by six o'clock the
promises and answers had been received.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to ask the Tribunal to
take judicial notice of my Document 20 in my Document Book
1, Page 72b, an excerpt from the book by Ambassador
Henderson, Failure of a Mission.


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