The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninetieth Day: Monday, 25rd March, 1946
(Part 10 of 11)

[LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES continues his cross examination of Karl Stroelin]

[Page 49]

Q. Will you look at page 127 of this book? I want you to tell me, looking at the last paragraph, whether that is an accurate report, "All persons who in the future " - this is, I beg your pardon, a confidential report on the special schooling work conducted by the D.A.I. for the foreign organisations. You did, in fact, did you not, assist the foreign organisation in training their Landesgruppenleiter and other leaders abroad?

A. May I ask who signed this article or report?

Q. No, I cannot tell you who signed that report. I asked you a question. Did the Deutsches Auslandsinstitut assist in training leaders for the Ausland Organisation abroad?

A. I am not informed on that point.

Q. Now, just turn over the page, to page 128, second paragraph which I read to you quite shortly.

"The Auslandsinstitut plays a part in determining the curriculum for the training camps as well as serving as an intermediary between the party authorities who run these camps and the Germans from abroad who attend them."
You still say that that report is -

A. May I ask the date of this report?

Q. I told you it is a report -

A. I had no knowledge of this report.

Q. Very well, I just want to ask you one or two very short questions on the evidence that you have given about the defendant von Neurath. You have told us that he was a man of peace, with an excellent, kind character. Do you know that on the 5th of November, 1937, he attended a meeting at which Hitler addressed the leaders of his armed forces? Did you ever hear of that meeting, on the 5th of November, 1937?

A. No, I did not hear of this meeting, at least not until I was imprisoned.

Q. Well then, perhaps I could tell you quite shortly what took place: Hitler said at the meeting, among other things, that the only way out of the German difficulties was to secure greater living space, and he said that that problem could only be solved by force. And, having said that, he then went on to say that he had decided to attack Austria and Czechoslovakia. You never heard of that meeting?

A. No, I have not heard anything of that meeting, and only concluded later that

[Page 50]

Q. But -

A. May I finish my sentence?

Q. I only wanted to know . . .

A. I said just that von Neurath indicated to me that he had serious differences of opinion with Hitler. That was toward the end of 1937. It was only later that I realised that he must have meant the conference with Hitler and the attitude which he took on the 5th of November; however, it was only when I was in prison that I heard through the newspapers that such a conference took place. Q. I will come to all that in a moment. I just want you to get a picture of what happened at this meeting, and I quote four lines from the minutes of that meeting:

"Hitler believed that England and presumably France had already secretly abandoned Czechoslovakia and were satisfied that this question would one day be cleared up by Germany."
And Hitler then went on to say that the embodiment of Czechoslovakia and Austria would constitute a conquest of food for five or six million people, and that he visualised the compulsory immigration of two million people from Czechoslovakia.

Now, that is what took place at that conference. Do you know that some four months later - on 12th March, 1938 - Von Neurath was giving an assurance to M. Masaryk, and among other things he assured him, on behalf of Herr Hitler, that Germany still considered herself bound by the German- Czechoslovak Arbitration Convention of 1925? Do you know that he said that?

A. I do not recall it.

Q. Can you understand, now that I have told you that that is a fact, can you understand anybody who had been at that conference and had heard what Hitler had said on 5th November giving an assurance to Czechoslovakia four months later in terms of that kind? Can you understand any honest man doing that?

A. I cannot judge of the situation which applied at that time. I do not know from whom von Neurath might have received the orders.

Q. I am not asking you to judge at that time. I am asking you now what your opinion of a man who can do that sort of thing is. I want you to tell the Tribunal.

A. I cannot answer that because I do not have a comprehensive picture of that situation.

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN (Counsel for the defendant von Neurath):

Mr. President, I must object to this type of suggestive question. It is not permissible to put such a question to the witness without giving him the complete picture of how this assurance was given. The fact is, and it is correct, that in the speech Of 5th November, 1937, Hitler for the first time developed plans which were no longer in accord with the peace policy of Herr von Neurath, and von Neurath took the opportunity - I believe in December or early in January - to discuss this thoroughly with Hitler and point out to him the impossibility of the policy which he apparently wanted to embark upon and to persuade him not to carry it out. When from Hitler's reply he was forced to the conclusion that Hitler would nevertheless insist on this policy which would lead to aggression in the future he submitted his resignation. On 4th February 1938 von Neurath was permitted to resign. He no longer participated in active politics.

On 11th or 12th March, when the invasion of Austria took place, an invasion of which Herr von Neurath had no inkling until that day, Hitler called him . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Luedinghausen, will you kindly wait? The question was put about the 12th of March, 1938, whether a man who was at the conference of the 5th of November, 1937 could have given the assurance of the 12th of March.

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: Yes, Mr. President; I can also clarify that statement if I may. The question put by Ambassador Mastny, was whether any military action

[Page 51]

against Czechoslovakia was intended immediately or soon after the invasion of Austria, and von Neurath believed that he could with honesty and as a gentleman answer this question in the negative.

I say that we have to take into consideration the circumstances under which this statement was made. First, Hitler, in his speech of 5th November, spoke of the years to come. When he marched into Austria on 12th March, it was an event which had not been proposed on 5th March and could not have been anticipated . . .

THE PRESIDENT: just one moment. We do not want to have all this argument. The question was what was this witness' opinion of a man who had done that. That was all the question that was asked, and that question is put to credit

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I beg your pardon; no one can answer that question unless he knows in what connection it was put. Ambassador Mastny asked whether the march into Austria would entail any aggressive action against Czechoslovakia and von Neurath answered that question in the negative. He did not want to give an answer in regard to the future. The Ambassador wanted to know whether in connection with the march of the German troops into Austria any military actions against Czechoslovakia were intended. According to the information which my client had, he could in the given situation answer this question in the negative with a clear conscience. This question is admissible only if the witness is informed about what I have just said. The point is not that he declared once and for all, Germany will never march into Czechoslovakia, but that he merely answered the Czech Ambassador Mastny's question: Is there any danger that in connection with the march into Austria military measures will also be taken against Czechoslovakia? This question he could answer the way he did. Therefore, the question in the form in which it was put by the British prosecution is in my opinion not admissible.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks the question properly admissible.


Q. Well, we will not pursue the matter. I ask you just this one further question, so that I make myself quite clear. You said in your evidence, as I wrote it down, that the defendant von Neurath was well thought of, dignified and of noble character. Having heard what I have told you, are you still prepared to tell the Tribunal that you think he is well thought of, dignified, and of noble character? Is that your opinion now? I just want to get the value of your evidence, do you see? After what you have been told is that your opinion?

A. It is still my opinion that Herr von Neurath is a man of aristocratic and sterling character. I cannot judge under what circumstances he acted at the time, and what considerations prompted him to act in this way.

Q. You say that he was in favour of peace, and did all he could to avoid a war. Do you call a deceit of that kind doing everything possible to avoid war? Is that what your idea of a peaceful policy is - giving assurance four months after you know perfectly well that the German intention is to overrun their country? Is that what you call doing everything to avoid war?

A. I would like to state once more that I do not sufficiently understand the essential points and ramifications of this question to form a proper opinion on it. But obviously things cannot be as simple as they have been pictured here.

Q. Let me turn to another aspect of this matter. We have been told, at great length, that he disapproved of Hitler's policy and that he resigned. Do you know that, having resigned, he was appointed Reich Protector of Bohemia- Moravia in March 1939. Do you know that?

A. Yes.

Q. That was after the remainder of Czechoslovakia had been overrun, occupied.

A. I said previously that von Neurath told me that he accepted this post very reluctantly; that he had twice refused to accept it but later he believed that he had to make a sacrifice in order to achieve his ends. State President Hacha told me

[Page 52]

later that von Neurath's personal influence was of great benefit because his activity undoubtedly had a balancing and reconciliatory effect. As I said before, he was recalled because he was too mild.

Q. Now, you have already said it, and we have heard it, and we have remembered it, so it is quite unnecessary for you to say it again. Do try to answer my question shortly. Let me ask you this question. Have you ever thought that the reason for that appointment might have been as a reward for his assistance in the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia that had followed so shortly before?

A. No, I never thought of that. However, if I may mention it, I have read quite a different version in the book by Henderson - that von Neurath had been put into that post so that his international prestige could be discredited. I wanted to bring in this version in order to point out that there were other possibilities that might come into question.

Q. Do you remember that you described him as a disciplined, humane, and conscientious man?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you look at that poster.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH JONES: My Lord, I regret that I have not got a copy of this for the Tribunal. It is a very short matter. It has been introduced in the Czechoslovak report on the German occupation. I will give your Lordship the number: Exhibit USSR 60.

Q. Do you see that this is signed by the defendant von Neurath, the humane and conscientious man?

A. Yes, I see that the Czech universities were closed for a period of three years, and that nine culprits were shot. This announcement, however, does not say, as far as I can see, exactly why this was done. Consequently I cannot pass judgement on the announcement because I do not know what von Neurath proclaimed in it. The announcement does not tell me anything, if I do not know the reason why the announcement was issued. The universities were closed and nine culprits shot. There must have been an adequate reason for the fact.

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I add the following? I would like to say this in order to save time.

This question of Czechoslovakia and of this poster with which I am also familiar, will, of course, be dealt with, in connection with von Neurath's case, and at that stage of the proceedings. I will have the opportunity to bring the proof that this poster did not originate with the defendant von Neurath. This witness was not in Prague and can only relate things which he did not know from his own experience but of which Herr von Neurath told him. Therefore, I believe that this question is not appropriate and is taking up time unnecessarily, for I would have to raise objections and describe the actual situation. We should not put questions to the witness which, though put in good faith, are positively incorrect, that is, questions which are based on inaccurately reported facts which actually occurred in a different manner. I shall prove that at the time when this poster was drafted and put up Herr von Neurath was not in Prague and was not informed of what was going on during his absence.

Therefore I believe that we should not deal with this question to-day, since I have said the witness cannot know anything about it from his own observation.

THE PRESIDENT: It will be open to you to show that this poster was put up when von Neurath was not at Prague, and that he gave no authority for it. That would clear him with reference to this poster but what is being put to this witness is: Assuming that this poster were put up by von Neurath, is it right to describe him as a humane man? That is all the cross-examination means.

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: But, the witness knows nothing of this poster. He cannot answer the question correctly if he does not know the ramifications, if he does not know that this poster actually did not originate with Herr von Neurath.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness was examined at great length by you to show he

[Page 53]

was a humane man and had a very good character. Under such circumstances it is up to the prosecution to put to the witness circumstances which would indicate that he (von Neurath) was not of that humane character. That is all that is being done.

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: In that case the most this witness could say would be "I do not know," or "if it is true, one can not call it humane." Anyone of us can say that. The witness does not need to say it.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can say "If this is correct it is inconsistent with what I knew of von Neurath."

DR. LUEDINGHAUSEN: He cannot and he will not say that either, for the simple reason that he does not know the circumstances under which this poster was published. Frankly I cannot see the purpose of this question, for if the question is put in that way, every decent individual will say that it is inhumane; but this would not alter the fact that the witness would be judging facts which do not exist and which are not true.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you not think this is really taking up unnecessary time if this witness does not know anything about it? I quite see that it is for the proper purpose of cross-examination to credit.

LT.-COL. GRIFFITH JONES: I am much obliged to the Tribunal. The point of that cross-examination was, perhaps I might be allowed to say, this: This defendant has produced a witness to give evidence on his oath before this Tribunal. If that evidence is unchallenged, then it goes down on the record, and there is nothing to stop this Tribunal from regarding this witness as a man who is in a position to give reliable evidence of that kind. This cross-examination is rather to show that this witness, whether he is saying it truthfully or untruthfully, is certainly inaccurate. The evidence he has given as to the good character of this defendant does not bear investigation - that is quite clear - and the Tribunal is not saying we are not entitled to cross-examine as to character. However, I do not think I need occupy the time of the Tribunal with that.



Q. Witness, when were you last in New York City?

A. I was in New York in 1936.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.