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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Sixty-First Day: Saturday, 22th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 4)

[Page 95]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, the Tribunal sees that you have a supplementary request for an additional witness, Ambassador Francois Poncet. Is that so, and for some additional documents?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, Mr. President. May I, with reference to the application for M. Francois Poncet, make the following remarks. The Ambassador Francois Poncet has in the meantime replied to the summons which he received and I got this letter two days ago through the French Delegation, though only a copy thereof. The French prosecution, however, has promised me that the original will be submitted to the Tribunal and it, as well as the British Delegation, have no objections to its being used. Therefore, the application for the interrogation of the witness...

THE PRESIDENT: The letter being used, you mean?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The calling and examination of the witness is, therefore, unnecessary, likewise this application of mine.

THE PRESIDENT: That seems a convenient course to the Tribunal, subject, of course, to any question of relevance in the actual subject matter of the letter.

Now, as to the documents which you are asking, does the prosecution object to those or not?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, in two cases, which I have already crossed off. The two documents which I also wanted to submit and which have been objected to by the prosecution I eliminated and they are no longer in my document books.

THE PRESIDENT: On the document before me the prosecution appears to have objected to three of them. I do not know whether that is true or not.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Two, Nos. 93 and 101 from my document books. They have been objected to and I have dropped them.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I beg your pardon, I was wrong. Well, then, you have dropped them, that is all right. You may continue, please.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I first of all say that up to now the translations have been completed only for Document Book 1. That book is already available. The others, however, are not yet ready. I should nevertheless like to be permitted first of all to cite the documents from the document books in connection with the respective questions, giving their numbers and short descriptions and also, possibly, quoting short passages from them, so that the context may remain intact and we may be saved the trouble of submitting the documents again after they have been translated, which after all would be a waste of time.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean to use the documents before you have called the defendant?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No, no, in the course of the examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes - then you propose to call the defendant?


[Page 96]

Constantin von Neurath, defendant, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your name, please?

A. Constantin von Neurath.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN (counsel for defendant von Neurath):

Q. Herr von Neurath, will you please give us a brief account of your family background, your education at home and your schooling?

A. I was born on 2nd February, 1878. On my father's side I come from an old family of civil servants. My grandfather, my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather were Ministers of justice and foreign affairs in Wurttemberg. On my mother's side I come from a noble Swabian family whose ancestors were mostly officers in the Imperial Austrian Army.

Until my twelfth year, spent in Berlin, I was brought up in the country in extreme simplicity, with particular emphasis laid on the duty of truthfulness, responsibility, patriotism and a Christian way of life along with Christian tolerance of other religions.

Q. And then you took your leaving-certificate examination and went to the university? Where and when?

A. After leaving public school I studied law in Tuebingen and Berlin and passed the two State law examinations.

Q. After your examinations what official positions did you hold until the moment when you were appointed Reich Foreign Minister?

A. In 1901 I entered the Foreign Service of the Reich. First of all, I worked at the central office in Berlin, and then in 1903 I was assigned to the Consulate General in London. From there I returned to the Foreign Office in Berlin and I worked there in all the departments of that office. In 1914 ...



THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean you were in London for eleven years?

THE WITNESS: Nearly, yes. Then I was sent to Constantinople as an Embassy Counsellor. At the end of 1916 I retired from the diplomatic service because of disagreement with the policy of Reich Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg. Then I became the head of the Cabinet of the King of Wurttemberg until the revolution at the end of 1918.

In February, 1919, the Social Democrat People's Commissioner, Ebert, requested me to return to the diplomatic service. I did so, with the reservation that I might keep my own political opinions, and then I became Ambassador to Denmark, where my principal task was to handle the differences we had with Denmark because of the so-called Schleswig question.

In December, 1921, I became Ambassador to Rome, where I remained until 1930. There I experienced the Fascist Revolution, with its bloody events and consequences. At the outset I had sharp arguments with Mussolini, which gradually, however, developed into a relationship of confidence on his part towards me.

During the First World War I was a captain in a grenadier regiment, and in December, 1914, I was decorated for bravery in action against the enemy with the Iron Cross, First Class. I was wounded, and then I was returned to my post in Constantinople.

[Page 97]

Q. What is your attitude towards the Church and religion?

A. As I have already told you, I was educated as a Christian, and at all times I have considered the Christian Church and Christian morality the foundation of the State. Therefore I tried again and again to persuade Hitler not to allow the anti-clerical attitude of certain groups in the Party to become effective. In the case of excesses committed by Party organizations and individuals against the Church and the monasteries and so on I have always intervened, as far as I was able.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I should like to quote from the affidavit given by Provincial Bishop Wurm in Stuttgart. This affidavit is No. 1 in my Document Book 1. I quote:

"I became acquainted with Herr von Neurath at the time of the Church struggle. I thought that I could turn to him as a man from the same province and as a descendant of a family which was friendly towards the Protestant Church. His father was a member of the Protestant provincial synod. I was not disappointed in this confidence. He received me frequently and often arranged conferences for me with other members of the Reich Cabinet. In particular, he helped me in the autumn of 1934, together with Minister of the Interior Dr. Frick and Reich Minister of Justice Dr. Guertner, when I had been removed from my office and interned in my apartment, because of illegal interventions on the part of Reich Bishop Ludwig Muller, as a result of my resistance to the domination of the Church by the German Christians. He obtained my release from detention and my reinstatement by the State as Bishop. He also brought about a discussion in the Reich Chancellery, the result of which was a repeal of the illegal legislation on the part of the Reich Bishop. Also during later periods of the Church struggle I always found a friendly reception and full understanding on his part for the concerns of the Church."
I should like also to refer to an affidavit which appears under No. 2 in my document book. It is an affidavit from an old, intimate friend of the defendant, the lawyer and notary Manfred Zimmermann, of Berlin. I should like to quote just a brief passage from this affidavit.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think it is necessary to read all of it. The Tribunal will, of course, consider it.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Very well, but I had attached importance to it because this second document comes from a man who has known the defendant very closely for forty years. I was interested, for that reason, in quoting, besides the declaration of Bishop Wurm, a statement by a man who knew his daily life. However, Mr. President, if you believe that it is not necessary for me to read it here, then I shall only refer to it.

THE PRESIDENT: You need not read it all, but you can draw our attention to the most material passages.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, the passage which I was going to quote is on Page 5 of that affidavit, under paragraph 5. It begins:

"Constantin von Neurath, according to his family, education and development, is a man of sound character in every respect."
Then I can dispense with the rest.

I should like to present a statement from Pastor Roller and the Mayor of Einzweihinger. This is the community in which von Neurath resides. This is No. 24 in my Document Book 1.


Q. Herr von Neurath, what, in this connection, was your attitude towards the Jewish problem?

A. I have never been anti-Semitic. My Christian and humanitarian convictions prevented that. A repression of the undue Jewish influence in all spheres

[Page 98]

of public and cultural life, as it had developed after the First World War in Germany, however, I regarded as desirable. But I opposed all measures of violence against the Jews, as well as propaganda against them. I considered the entire racial policy of the National Socialist Party wrong and for that reason I fought against it.

After the Jewish laws had been put in force, I opposed their being carried out and kept non-Aryan members in the Foreign Office as long as was possible. Not until after the Party had received the decision regarding the appointment of civil servants did I have to confine myself to defending individual persons. I enabled several of them to emigrate.

The so-called racial law was drawn up by a racial fanatic in the Party, and was passed in Nuremberg in spite of emphatic protests.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to refer to and read a short sentence from an affidavit by the former Ambassador Dr. Kurt Pruefer. This document is No. 4 in my document book. Ambassador Pruefer was Ministerial Director in the Foreign Office when von Neurath was Foreign Minister. I should like to quote briefly concerning his attitude towards officials of different faiths. "Neurath in many cases ..."

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give us the page?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: It is Page 9 of the German.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and our Page 21?


"Neurath in many cases intervened on behalf of officials of the Foreign Office who, because of their race, their religion, or their former membership in other parties, were objected to by the National Socialists. Thus, until Hindenburg's death, and as long as Neurath still had sole power in all questions relating to civil servants, a number of officials of Jewish or mixed blood remained in their positions, and were even, in some cases, promoted.

Not until after Hindenburg's death, when the Reich Ministers, as well as other department chiefs, were deprived of the final decision in all questions relating to civil servants by a decree of the Fuehrer, and this power was transferred to the Deputy of the Fuehrer, did the radicalism of the Party penetrate this sector, too, and then, particularly after Neurath's resignation, it assumed increasingly harsh forms."

THE PRESIDENT: Which answer was that?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: That was the affidavit of the former Ambassador Pruefer.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know that. I wanted to know which answer it was.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I see, number 4. It is an affidavit, it is not a questionnaire in this sense.

THE PRESIDENT: It is paragraphed in our copy, at any rate.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Number 18; it is the answer to question number 18.

May I also draw your attention to an affidavit by Baroness Ritter of Munich. Baroness Ritter is a distant relative of the defendant. She is the widow of the former Bavarian Ambassador to the Holy See. She has known von Neurath for many years, and is very familiar with his way of thinking.

This is contained in my Document Book 3, and I should like to quote from Page 3, just one short passage:

"The same tolerant attitude which he had towards Christian denominations he also had towards the Jewish question. Therefore, he rejected Hitler's racial policy as a matter of principle. In practice he also succeeded in preventing any elimination of Jews under his jurisdiction until the year 1937.

[Page 99]

Furthermore, he helped all persons who were close to him professionally or personally and who had been affected by the legislation concerning Jews, in so far as he was able, in order to protect them from financial and other disadvantages."

Q. Herr von Neurath, what was your attitude towards Hitler's anti-Jewish tendencies and measures?

A. In them I saw an anti-Semitism which was not altogether rare in the German people, but had had no practical effects. I protested to Hitler against all excesses of which I knew, and not simply for foreign political reasons. I begged him, in particular, to restrain Goebbels and Himmler.

Q. In connection with this matter I should like to interpose a question. What did you know about the activities and excesses committed by the Gestapo, the SA, and the SS?

In this connection I should like to put to you the testimony of the witness Gisevius, who was examined here some time ago. He said:

"In addition I gave as much material as I could to one of the closest collaborators of the Foreign Minister" - that was you - "the Chief of Records, Ambassador von Bulow- Schwandte, and, according to the information I received from Bulow-Schwandte, he very often submitted that material to Neurath."
This is material supposed to refer to excesses, particularly against foreigners, of course.

A. The statement by this witness, Gisevius, that my Chief of Records would generally have had to inform me about the activities of the Gestapo is completely incorrect. Officially, through complaints from ambassadors and envoys, I heard of brawls and also of arrests by the police and the SA, but I knew nothing about the general official institutions of the Gestapo and its activities.

In every case which became known to me I demanded, above all, that the Minister of the Interior, the Chief of the Police and the Gestapo give me an explanation and punish the guilty persons.

Q. What did you know or what did you learn about concentration camps? When did you first hear of this institution at all, and when and from whom did you hear of the conditions which prevailed in these camps?

A. The institution of the so-called concentration camps was known to me from the Boer War. The existence of such camps in Germany became known to me in 1934 or 1935 when two officials of my office, one of them the Chief of Records mentioned by Herr Gisevius, were suddenly arrested. When I investigated their whereabouts, I discovered that they had been removed to a so-called concentration camp. I sent for Himmler and Heydrich and remonstrated with them, I complained at once to Hitler, and my two officials were released. I then asked them how they had been treated, and both of them agreed in saying that, apart from the lack of freedom, the treatment had not been bad.

The concentration camp to which they had been taken was the camp at Oranienburg. Later on I learned of the existence of a camp at Dachau, and in 1939 I also heard of Buchenwald, because the Czech students who had been arrested by Himmler were taken there.

The extent of the concentration camps as it has become known here and, in particular, the treatment of the prisoners and the existence of the extermination camps are things which I learned about for the first time here in Nuremberg.

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