The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Constantin Von Neurath

(Part 2 of 6)

[Page 1016]


In assuming the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs in Hitler's Cabinet, von Neurath assumed charge of a foreign policy committed to breach of treaties.

The Nazi Party had repeatedly and for many years made known its intention to overthrow Germany's international commitments, even at the risk of war. Sections 1 and 2 of the Party Program (1708-PS), which was published year after year, declared:

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"1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self- determination of peoples.

"2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain." (1708- PS)

An even clearer statement of these goals is contained in Hitler's speech at Munich on 15 March 1939, in which he said:

"My foreign policy had identical aims. My program was to abolish the Treaty of Versailles. It is futile nonsense for the rest of the world to pretend today that I did not reveal this program until 1933 or 1935 or 1937. Instead of listening to this foolish chatter of emigres, these gentlemen would have been wiser to read what I have written thousands of times." (2771-PS)

If it is "futile nonsense" for foreigners to raise that point, it would be still more futile for Hitler's Foreign Minister to suggest that he was ignorant of the aggressive designs of Nazi policy. The acceptance of force as a means of solving international problems and achieving the objectives of Hitler's foreign policy must have been known to anyone as closely in touch with Hitler as was von Neurath. This doctrine, for example, is constantly reiterated in Mein Kampf (D-660). (See Section 6 of Chapter IX on Aggression as a Basic Nazi Idea.)

Hence, by the acceptance and implementation of this foreign policy, von-Neurath assisted and promoted the realization of the illegal aims of the Nazi Party.


In his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs von Neurath directed the international aspects of the first phase of the Nazi conspiracy, the consolidation of control in preparation for war.

From his close connection with Hitler von Neurath must have known the cardinal points of Hitler's policy leading up to the outbreak of World War II, as outlined in retrospect by Hitler in his speech to his military leaders on 23 November 1939 (789-PS). This policy had two facets: internally, the establishment of rigid control; externally, the program to release Germany from its international commitments. The external program had four points:

1. Secession from the disarmament conference;

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2. The order to re-arm Germany;

3. The introduction of compulsory military service; and

4. The remilitarization of the Rhineland.

These points were set out in Hitler's address of 23 November 1939, after the invasion of Poland:

" *** I had to reorganize everything beginning with the mass of the people and extending it to the armed forces. First, reorganization of the interior, abolishment of appearance of decay and defeatist ideas, education to heroism. While reorganizing the interior, I undertook the second task, to release Germany from its international ties. Two particular characteristics are to be pointed out: secession from the League of Nations and denunciation of the disarmament conference. It was a hard decision. The number of prophets who predicted that it would lead to the occupation of the Rhineland was large, the number of believers was very small. I was supported by the nation, which stood firmly behind me, when I carried out my intentions. After that, the order for rearmament. Here again there were numerous prophets who predicted misfortunes, and only a few believers. In 1935 the introduction of compulsory armed service. After that, militarization of the Rhineland, again a process believed to be impossible at that time. The number of people who would trust in me were very small. Then the beginning of the fortification of the whole country, especially in the West." (789-PS)

Hitler thus summarized his pre-war foreign policy in four points. Von Neurath participated directly and personally in accomplishing each of these four points, at the same time officially proclaiming that these measures did not constitute steps toward aggression. The first is a matter of history. When Germany left the disarmament conference von Neurath sent telegrams, dated 14 October 1933, to the President of the Conference announcing Germany's withdrawal (Documents of German Politics, 1933, vol. I, p. 94). Similarly, von Neurath made the announcement of Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations on 21 October 1933. (Documents of German Politics, 1933, vol. I). At the same time, the German government was undertaking far-reaching military preparation (C-140; C-153).

The second point regarding German rearmament: When von Neurath was Foreign Minister, on 10 March 1935, the German Government officially announced the establishment of the German air force (TC-44). On 21 May 1935, Hitler announced a purported unilateral repudiation of the Naval, Military, and Air

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clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty for the Restoration of Friendly Relations with the United States (2288-PS). On the same day the Reich Cabinet, of which von Neurath was a member, enacted the secret Reich Defense Law creating the office of Plenipotentiary General for War Economy (2261-PS), afterwards described by the Wehrmacht armament expert as "the cornerstone of German rearmament" (2353-PS):

"The latter orders were decreed in the Reich defense law of 21 May 1935, which was supposed to be published only in case of war, and was already declared valid for carrying out war preparations. As this law fixed the duties of the armed forces and the other Reich authorities in case of war, it was also the fundamental ruling for the development and activity of the war economy organization." (2353-PS)

The third point is the introduction of compulsory military service. On 16 March 1935 von Neurath signed the law for the organization of the armed forces, which provided for universal military service and anticipated a vastly expanded German army (Reichsgesetzblatt, 1935, I, p. 369) (1654-PS). This was described by Keitel as the real start of the large- scale rearmament program which followed.

The fourth point was the remilitarization of the Rhineland. The Rhineland was reoccupied on 7 March 1936. This action was announced by Hitler (2289-PS), who had also previously given the order for "Operation Schulung," directing the military action which was to be taken if necessary (C-139). These were acts for which von Neurath shared responsibility from his position and from the steps which he took. Some time later he summed up his views on the actions detailed above in a speech to Germans abroad, on 29 August 1937:

"The unity of the racial and national will created through Nazism with unprecedented elan has made possible a foreign policy through which the bonds of the Versailles Treaty were slashed, freedom to arm regained, and the sovereignty of the whole nation reestablished. We have again become master in our own home, and we have produced the means of power to remain henceforth that way for all times. The world should notice from Hitler's deeds and words that his aims are not aggressive war." (D-449)

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