The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Constantin Von Neurath

(Part 3 of 6)

[Page 1020]


Both as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as one of the inner circle of the Fuehrer's advisors on foreign political matters, von Neurath participated in the political planning and preparation for acts of aggression against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and other nations.

(1) The von Neurath technique. If von Neurath's policy may be described in a sentence it may be summarized as breaking one treaty only at a time. He himself put it slightly more pompously but to the same effect in a speech before the Academy of German Law on 30 October 1937:

" *** Out of the acknowledgment of these elementary facts the Reich Cabinet has always interceded in favor of treating every concrete international problem within methods especially suited for it, not to complicate it unnecessarily by amalgamation with other problems, and as long as problems between only two powers are concerned to choose the way for an immediate understanding between these two powers. We are in a position to state that this method has fully proved itself good not only in the German interest, but also in the general interest."

The only countries whose interests von Neurath failed to mention in that speech are the other parties to the various treaties that were dealt with in that way. The working out of that policy can be seen from a brief summary of the actions of von Neurath when he was Foreign Minister, and those of his immediate-successor when von Neurath still purported to have influence.

In 1935 action was directed against the Western Powers, in the form of the rearmament of Germany. When that was going on another country had to be reassured. At that time it was Austria, which still had -- up to 1935 -- the support of Italy. Hence, the fraudulent and clearly false assurance, the essence of the technique in that case, given by Hitler, on 21 May 1935. (TC-26)

Then, in 1936, action was again taken against the Western Powers in the occupation of the Rhineland. Another fraudulent assurance was made to Austria in the Treaty of 11 July of that year, (TC-22) the deceitful nature of which is shown by letters from von Papen. (2246-PS;

Then, in 1937 and 1938, the Nazis moved on a step and action was directed against Austria. That action was absorption, finally planned, at the latest, at the meeting on 5 November 1937

[Page 1021]

(386-PS). The action was taken on 11 March 1938. Reassurance had to be given to the Western Powers; hence the assurance to Belgium on 13 October 1937. (TC-34)

Less than a year later the object of the aggressive action was Czechoslovakia. The Sudetenland was obtained in September 1938, and the whole of Bohemia and Moravia was absorbed on 15 March 1939. At that time it was necessary to reassure Poland; so an assurance to Poland was given by Hitler on 20 February 1938 (2357-PS), and repeated up to 26 September 1938 (2358-PS). The falsity of that assurance is shown in Section 8 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Poland.

Finally, when the Nazis decided to take action for the conquest of Poland in the next year, assurance had to be given to Russia. Hence, a non-aggression pact was entered into with the USSR. on 23 August 1939. (TC-25)

With regard to the foregoing summary, the Latin tag, res ipsa loquitur is apposite. But a frank statement from von Neurath with regard to the earlier part of it is found in the account of his conversation with the United States Ambassador, Mr. Bullitt, on 18 May 1936 (L-150):

"Von Neurath said that it was the policy of the German Government to do nothing active in foreign affairs until 'the Rhineland had been digested.' He explained that he meant that, until the German fortifications had been constructed on the French and Belgian frontiers, the German Government would do everything possible to prevent rather than encourage an outbreak by the Nazis in Austria and would pursue a quiet line with regard to Czechoslovakia. 'As soon as our fortifications are constructed and the countries of Central Europe realize that France cannot enter German territory at will, all those countries will begin to feel very differently about their foreign policies and a new constellation will develop,' he said."

The conversation between von Papen as Ambassador and Mr. Messersmith is much to the same effect. (1760-PS)

(2) Austria. At the time of the aggression against Austria von Neurath was Foreign Minister. This included the preliminary stages, during the early Nazi plottings against Austria in 1934. In this period occurred the Nazi murder of Chancellor Dolfuss and the ancillary acts which were afterwards so strongly approved by the German Government. (See Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.) Von Neurath was also Foreign Minister when the false assurance was given to Austria

[Page 1022]

on 21 May 1935 (TC-26) and the fraudulent treaty was made on 11 July 1936 (TC-22). And von Neurath was Foreign Minister when his ambassador to Austria, von Papen, was carrying on his subterranean intrigue in the period from 1935 to 1937. (2247-PS; 2246-PS)

Von Neurath was present when Hitler declared, in a highly confidential circle, on 5 November 1937, that the German question could only be solved by force, and that his plans were to conquer Austria and Czechoslovakia (386-PS). Hitler expressed his designs on Austria as follows:

" For the improvement of our military political position, it must be our first aim in every case of entanglement by war to conquer Czechoslovakia and Austria simultaneously, in order to remove any threat from the flanks in case of a possible advance westwards." (386-PS)

It is impossible for von Neurath, after that meeting, to say that he was not acting except with his eyes completely open and with complete comprehension as to what was intended.

During the Anschluss von Neurath received a note from the British Ambassador dated 11 March 1938 (045-PS). In reply von Neurath uttered two obvious untruths. The first:

" It is untrue that the Reich used forceful pressure to bring about this development, especially the assertion, which was spread later by the former Chancellor Schuschnigg, that the German Government had presented the Federal President with a conditional ultimatum. It is a pure invention." (3287-PS)

According to the German ultimatum, Schuschnigg had to appoint a proposed candidate as Chancellor and form a Cabinet conforming to the proposals of the German Government. Otherwise the invasion of Austria by German troops was held in prospect. (See Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.) The second untruth:

"The truth of the matter is that the question of sending military or police forces from the Reich was only brought up when the newly formed Austrian Cabinet addressed a telegram, already published by the press, to the German Government, urgently asking for the dispatch of German troops as soon as possible, in order to restore peace and order and to avoid bloodshed. Faced with the immediately threatening danger of a bloody civil war in Austria the German Government then decided to comply with the appeal addressed to it." (3287-PS)

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(As to the inspired nature of the Austrian telegram, see Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.)

All that can be said is that it must have given von Neurath a certain macabre sort of humor to write that note (3287-PS) when the truth was the opposite, as shown by the report of Gauleiter Rainer to Buerckel (812-PS), the transcripts of Goering's telephone conversations with Austria (2949-PS), and the entries in Jodl's diary for 11, 13, and 14 February. (1780-PS)

According to Jodl's diary -- the entry for 10 March:

"At 13.00 hours General Keitel informs Chief of Operational Staff and Admiral Canaris. Ribbentrop is being detained in London. Neurath takes over the Foreign Office." (1780-PS)

It is inconceivable when von Neurath had taken over the Foreign Office, was dealing with the matter and was co- operating with Goering to suit the susceptibilities of the Czechs, that he should have been so ignorant of the truth of events as to write that letter (3287-PS) in good faith.

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