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 4 of 4)

[DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN continues his direct examination of Constantin von Neurath]

[Page 109]

Q. What was the effect on foreign countries of Hitler's seizure of power in Germany?

A. A perceptible tension and distrust of the new government was the immediate result. The antagonism was unmistakable. It was especially clear to me at the World Economic Conference in 1933 in London, where I had an opportunity to talk to many old friends and members of other delegations and to inform myself definitely of this change in feeling. The practical effect of this feeling was a greater cautiousness in all the negotiations, as well as in the session of the Disarmament Conference which was just reopening.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to refer in this connection to a letter which is No. II in my document book. It is a report by Herr von Neurath to President von Hindenburg from the London Conference. It is dated 19th June, 1933. I shall quote only a very short passage:

"Unfortunately I have to state that the impressions I received here are most alarming."
THE PRESIDENT: What page is that?


THE PRESIDENT: Is that where you are reading - 47?


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go on.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: "Because of the reports of the chiefs of our foreign mission I was prepared for many bad manifestations, many gloomy events and disturbing opinions on the part of foreign countries. Nevertheless, despite all my apprehensions, I had hopes that much of this would perhaps be only transitory, that much could straighten itself out. However, my apprehensions proved more justified than my hopes. I hardly recognized London again. I found a mood there - first in the English world and then in international circles, which showed a retrogression in the political and psychical attitude towards Germany which cannot be taken seriously enough."

[Page 110]


Q. Now further negotiations were held in the main committee of the Disarmament Conference in the winter of 1933/34. Can you briefly describe the course of these negotiations? It is important, in view of later events.

A. A French plan of 14th November, 1932, was the basis of the negotiations at that time. This plan, surprisingly enough, provided for the transformation of professional armies into armies with a short period of service, for according to the opinion presented by the French representative at that time only armies with a short period of service could be considered defensive armies, while standing armies, consisting of professional soldiers, would have an offensive character.

This point of view on the part of France was completely new and was not only exactly the opposite of France's previous point of view, but it was also a change from the provisions laid down in the Versailles Treaty for the disarmament of Germany. This meant for Germany - at which it was apparently aimed - the elimination of its standing army of 100,000 men. In addition, with this new plan France let it be seen that she herself did not want to disarm. A statement by the French representative, Paul Boncour, in the session of 8th February, 1933 confirmed this.

France also maintained the same point of view in the subsequent discussions about the so-called working programme presented by England on 30th January, 1933 by means of which England wanted to speed up the negotiations of the conference. This attempt to expedite the negotiations, which aimed at adjusting the diverging tendencies of the various powers, failed because of the stubborn attitude of France. A change in the programme was then made in an attempt to get over these difficulties, and at this time the question of army strength was debated first.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to submit and ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of Document No. 49 in my Document Book 2. It contains excerpts from the English working programme of the 30th January, 1933, and also from my documents, Nos. 46 and 47, which are likewise in Document Book 2. They contain excerpts from the French plan for the unification of continental European army systems; and, finally, No. 47 of my Document Book 2, which contains excerpts from the speech of Herr von Neurath at the session of the League of Nations Assembly on 7th December, 1932, which describes the negotiations up to that time.


Q. What was the attitude of the Disarmament Conference on the question of the treatment of disarmament as such, that is, the reduction of army strength?

A. To discuss this I must refer to notes to a great extent, because it is not possible to keep all these details, motions, and formulations in one's head. The subject matter goes into detail so much that I can only do it by means of notes.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, we have been the whole morning and we have not yet really got up to 1933. The Tribunal thinks this is being done in far too great detail. As I have already pointed out, a great deal of it is an attempt to show that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust, which is irrelevant.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, if I may say the following, I do not wish to show the injustice of the Versailles Treaty; but I must ...

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. von Ludinghausen, will you kindly get on? As I, say, we think you are going into it in far too great detail.



Q. What happened now, Herr von Neurath, in order to get the negotiations going again? On 16th March the English Prime Minister submitted a new plan ...

[Page 111]

THE PRESIDENT: We have nothing to do with the disarmament programme.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I must nevertheless show what the entire background and mood were in order to explain more exactly the motives for our withdrawal from the League of Nations, for which we have been reproached, for Germany's withdrawal followed in the autumn of 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: There is nothing against von Neurath in having influenced Germany to resign from the League of Nations, is there?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, there is.

I can explain the withdrawal from the League of Nations only on the basis of the preceding events. I cannot say in three words that this and that was the reason; rather I must explain how gradually a certain atmosphere came about and what the circumstances were which left no other choice to the German Government except to leave the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations, for these factors explain the decision of the German Government to rearm. In history and in politics decisions and actions are always the consequence of what went before them. In the development of these political conditions we are concerned with t period extending over several years, not with a spontaneous event or a spontaneous decision. In the case of a military order, to be sure, I cannot say that this order was based on orders of the other side; rather I must describe ...

THE PRESIDENT (interrupting): Dr. von Ludinghausen, we do not need all this argument. We only desire you to get on. I am pointing out to you that you have been nearly the whole of the morning and we have not yet got up to 1933.

THE WITNESS: Mr. President, I shall try to be very brief in coming to this year, when Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference.

The negotiations, as I said, dragged on the whole year, into the summer of 1933. In the autumn there was again a Disarmament Conference session in which the same subject was more or less debated over again. Well, the result of this conference was that disarmament was definitely refused by the Western Powers and that was the reason why we then, first of all, withdrew from the Disarmament Conference, since we considered any useful work no longer possible there. Following this, we also withdrew from the League of Nations, since we had witnessed its failure in the most widely different fields.

And so, quite briefly, that brings us up to the point which caused us to withdraw from the League of Nations. The reasons which caused us to do so at that time I have discussed explicitly in a speech, which my defence counsel can perhaps submit.


Q. What date do you mean, Herr von Neurath?

A. October, 1933 - 16th October. I have the date here, 16th October, 1933 - to the foreign Press. In this speech I said that the withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations by no means meant that Germany did not want to take part in any negotiations or discussions, especially with the Western Powers.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, this speech is the excerpt on Page 59 in my document book. Since it is essentially the same thing that Herr von Neurath has just stated, except that it is in more detail, I am prepared to forgo reading the actual excerpt, as I had intended to do.

In this connection I must call attention to the documents which I have submitted for this entire period of time which we have rather hurried over, so that they will at least provide a picture of how things had gradually come to a head by the middle of October. In this connection I should like to refer to Document 56, a speech by Herr von Neurath to the foreign Press; then Hitler's appeal to the German people, No. 58; to the document just quoted, No. 59;

[Page 112]

to the German memorandum on the question of armament and equal rights of 18th December, 1933, No. 61; an interview of Herr von Neurath with the Berlin representative of the New York Times on 29th December, 1933; the German answer to the French memorandum of 1st January, 1934, No. 64 in my Document Book 3; the German memorandum of 13th March, 1934, No. 67; the speech of the President of the Disarmament Conference, Sir Nevile Henderson, of 10th April, 1934, No. 68; and finally, the aide-memoire of the German Reich Government to the English disarmament memorandum of the 16th April.

I have just been informed that I gave the wrong first name. It was Arthur Henderson.


Q. In the middle of April, 1934, a very important event occurred. Please comment briefly on this. This note caused a complete volte face, a change in European politics.

A. This was a French note which was addressed to the English Government as an answer to an English inquiry and to a German memorandum of 13th March, 1934, which had spoken about the continuation of the negotiations. The details are contained in this speech to the Berlin Press which has just been cited. With this French note, however, the efforts to come to a settlement in the disarmament question failed again because of the French Government's "No."

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to refer to various documents on this which I have submitted in my Document Book 3; No. 66, an excerpt from a speech of the Belgian Premier, Count Broqueville, of March, 1934; an excerpt from the diary of Ambassador Dodd, No. 63; then No. 70, an excerpt from the note of the French Government, which was just mentioned, to the English Government on 17th April, 1934; the speech of Foreign Minister von Neurath, the defendant, to representatives of the Berlin Press, in which he commented on this French note, No. 74 in my document book; finally, an excerpt from the speech of the American delegate at the Disarmament Conference, Norman Davis, of 29th May, 1934. In these the sudden change in European politics which I have just alluded to ...

THE PRESIDENT: Did you give the number of that?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The last one, Mr. President?



THE PRESIDENT: Yes; go on.

THE WITNESS: I think that before I answer this question, I might perhaps comment on something else. The prosecution showed me a speech by Hitler on 23rd September, 1939, to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Army, in which he speaks of the political and organisational measures which preceded the war.

THE PRESIDENT: You say that was on 23rd September?

THE WITNESS: 23rd September, 1939.

The prosecution sees in the mention of the withdrawal from the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference a sign that aggressive intentions were already in existence at that time, and reproaches me with this.

As I have repeatedly emphasized, up to 1937 there had never been any talk at any time of any aggressive intentions or preparations for a war of aggression. The speech mentioned by the prosecution was made by Hitler six years after these events and one and a half years after my resignation as Foreign Minister. It is clear that to a man like Hitler these events at such a moment, after the victorious termination of the Polish war, appeared different from what they had actually been. These events, however, cannot be judged afterwards, that is, before the date of the speech, any more than German foreign policy today can be judged,

[Page 113]

but it must be regarded from the point of view prevailing at the time in which they took place.

And now in answer to your question: In my opinion the reasons lie, first of all, more or less in the fact that the course of the preceding diplomatic negotiations had shown that England and Italy no longer stood unconditionally behind France and were no longer willing to support France's strictly antagonistic attitude towards the question of equal rights for Germany. The same point of view was held by the neutral States, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, in a note addressed to the Disarmament Conference of 14th April, 1934. Therefore, at the time, France apparently feared being isolated and thus falling into the danger of not being able to maintain her refusal to accept any form of disarmament. I myself commented in detail on this attitude on the part of France, from the German point of view, in my aforementioned speech to the German Press on 27th April, 1934, I believe.


Q. What were the further consequences of this French note of 17th April, as far as the attitude of French foreign policy was concerned?

A. Just a few days after this note the French Foreign Minister, Louis Barthou, undertook a trip to the East, to Warsaw and Prague. As was soon apparent, the purpose of this trip to Poland and Czechoslovakia was to prepare the ground for a resumption of diplomatic relations between these countries and the other countries of the so-called "Little Entente" and the Soviet Union, and thus to smooth the way for the inclusion of Russia as a participant in European politics.

Barthou's efforts were successful. Poland as well as Czechoslovakia and Roumania resumed diplomatic relations with Russia. On a second trip Barthou was able to get the agreement of all the States of the "Little Entente" to the Eastern Pact proposed by France and Russia.

Q. Were not negotiations undertaken at the same time for an Eastern Pact which later also proved to be an instrument directed against Germany?

A. Yes. I just mentioned it. An Eastern Pact was worked out and presented which we would have accepted as far as the basic principle was concerned, but which then came to naught because we were supposed to undertake an obligation which we could not keep, namely, to give aid in all cases of conflict which might arise among the Eastern peoples. We were in no position to do this, and thus the Eastern Pact came to naught.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I refer in connection with the statements just made to three documents in my Document Book 3: No. 72, an official communique of 24th April, 1934, about the Warsaw discussions of the French Foreign Minister; No. 13, an official communique about the Prague discussions of the French Foreign Minister on 27th April, 1934; and an excerpt from a speech of the French Foreign Minister of 30th May, 1934.


Q. What was your further policy after the rather abrupt breaking off of negotiations caused by this French note?

A. We tried first of all by means of negotiations with the individual powers to bring about a permanent and real peace on the basis of the practical recognition of our equal rights and general understanding with all peoples. I had given the German missions abroad the task of carrying on talks to this effect with the respective governments.

In order to get negotiations going again, Hitler had decided to accept an invitation from Mussolini for a friendly talk in Venice. The purpose of this meeting, as Mussolini later said, was to attempt to disperse the clouds which were darkening the political horizon of Europe.

A few days after his return from Venice Hitler made an important speech in which he reaffirmed Germany's will for peace.

[Page 114]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like in this connection to refer to Document No. 80 in the Document Book 3, which is an excerpt from this Hitler speech in Gera on 17th June, 1934, only that part of interest from the foreign political point of view, of course.

Would you like to break off now, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, the Tribunal hopes that on Monday, when you continue, you will be able to deal in less detail with this political history, which, of course, is very well known to everyone who has lived through it, and particularly to the Tribunal who have heard it all gone into before here.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I shall endeavour to do so, Mr. President.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 24th June, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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