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-Second Day: Monday, 24th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 115]



BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN (Counsel for defendant von Neurath): Herr von Neurath, I have been told, and I heard it on the radio, that yesterday apparently a mistake was made, perhaps due to poor translation, regarding your activity from 1903 - 1914. Perhaps you can repeat your statement, for I, too, believe that the Court misunderstood what you said.

A. It probably concerns my stay in London. From 1903 to 1907 I was in London, and after that I was in the Foreign Office in Berlin.

Q. Then we will continue the presentation of your policy as Foreign Minister. I should like to ask the following questions:

The prosecution sees in the fact that during your period of office as Foreign Minister in the spring of 1935, general rearmament was begun, general military service was introduced, and the Luftwaffe was created, the proof of your guilt in the alleged conspiracy against peace. Will you comment on this?

A. First, I should like to emphasize that there was no question of war plans in Germany in this year and in the following years. I am also perfectly convinced that at that time neither Hitler nor his entourage had any aggressive plans, or even considered any aggressive plans, for that would not have been possible without my knowing about it.

Rearmament as such involves no threat to peace unless it is decided to use the newly made weapons for purposes other than defence. There was no such decision and no such preparation at that time. The same charge of preparations for aggressive war could be held against all the neighbouring States of Germany who were rearming in precisely -

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, Dr. Ludinghausen, this is argument, not evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I must hear how things appeared to him. Decisions for action can only be excused if I explain -

THE PRESIDENT: No, we are not prepared to hear argument in the course of evidence. It is evidence for him to say that there were no plans made at that time for offensive action, but it is argument to say that rearmament does not necessarily involve offensive action. We do not desire to hear argument at this stage.



Q. Then please answer the question once more whether there were in fact no plans to use the weapons created by rearmament for any aggressive purposes or for other violent action?

A. That is what I just said. I do not believe I need repeat it.

Q. What reasons were there, what facts, which made the situation of Germany appear particularly perilous?

[Page 116]

A. At that time Germany could not help feeling she was encircled by her heavily armed neighbours. Russia and France had concluded a mutual assistance pact which could only be called a military alliance. It was immediately followed by a similar treaty between Russia and Czechoslovakia. According to her own statements, Russia had increased the peace-time strength of her army by more than one half. How strong it actually was could not be ascertained. In France, under the leadership of Petain, efforts were being made to strengthen the Army considerably. As early as 1934 Czechoslovakia had introduced the two years' military service. On 1st March, 1935, France issued a new defence law, which also increased the period of military service. This whole development, which had come about in a few months, could only be considered as an immediate threat. Germany could no longer be a defenceless and inactive spectator. In view of these facts the decision which Hitler then made to reintroduce compulsory military service and gradually to build up an army of thirty-six divisions was not an act which seriously threatened the neighbouring countries, bound together by alliances.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I should like to ask you to take judicial notice of the following documents in my document book:

Document 87, a document on the entry of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations of 18th September, 1934, in Document Book 3. Document 89, also in Document Book 3, is a statement of the reporter of the Army Committee of the French Chamber, of 23rd November, 1931, on the entente with Russia. Document 91, again in Document Book 3, is the Russian-French Protocol to the Eastern Pact negotiations of 5th December, 1934.

M. DEBENEST: Mr. President, I should like to say that Document 89 has not been submitted to us as yet. Therefore, it has not been possible to examine this document and to say whether or not it is relevant.

THE PRESIDENT: When you get the book you will have the right to object to the document, if necessary. Dr. von Ludinghausen is only telling us what documents he contends support the evidence which has just been given, that is all. He is offering these documents in evidence, and as soon as you get the book and can scrutinize the document, you will have the opportunity of making an objection to its admissibility.

M. DEBENEST: That is exactly the point, Mr. President. I wished to reserve for myself the right to do that.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we agree with you.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Then comes Document 92, in Document Book 3, the call to the Army made by the President of the Czechoslovak Republic on 28th December, 1934.

Still in Document Book 3, Document 96 is the French Government declaration of 15th March, 1935; Document 79 is a report of the Czech Minister in Paris, Osusky, Of 15th June, 1934; Document 101 is the French-Russian Mutual Assistance Pact of 2nd May, 1935; and Document 94 is an excerpt from the speech of the French President, Flandin, to the French Chamber on 5th February, 1935.

I ask you to take judicial notice of these documents.


Q. Was Germany's decision to rearm intended to mean that she would discontinue all further co-operation in international efforts to limit general rearmament?

A. No, by no means. An English inquiry as to whether Germany would be ready to continue to participate in general disarmament negotiations in the same manner and to the same extent as laid down in the so-called London Communique of February, 1935, was immediately answered in the affirmative.

[Page 117]

On 18th March - that is, two days after the introduction of military service - the Embassy in London was instructed to resume negotiations and, in particular, to suggest an agreement to limit the strength of the fleet.

In May of 1935 Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag, in which he expounded a concrete German plan for peace. He emphasized particularly the German will for peace, and again declared himself willing to co-operate in any system of international agreements for the maintenance of peace, even collective agreements. The only condition he made - and this he had always done - was the recognition of Germany's equal rights. He also declared himself willing to rejoin the League of Nations. By so doing he wanted to prove that Germany, in spite of the conclusion of military alliances which he felt to be a threat, and our own rearmament, continued to desire peace.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I wish to ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the following documents in my Document Book 3:

Document 95, answer of the Reich Government of 15th February, 1935, to the so-called London Communique.

Document 97, an excerpt from the appeal of the German Reich Government of 16th March, 1935, for the reintroduction of the German military service.

Document 98 is the communique of 26th March, 1935, on the talk of the British Foreign Minister, Sir John Simon, and the Lord Privy Seal, Eden, with the German Reich Government.

Document 102, communique of 15th May, 1935, on the speech of Foreign Minister Laval in Moscow.

Document 104, Hitler's speech of 21st May, 1935, on the Russian-French pact.

Document 105, the note of the Reich Government of 25th May, 1935, to the signatory powers of the Locarno Treaty.


Q. Did the German efforts and willingness to negotiate have any success?

A. Yes; they led to the conclusion of the first and only agreement to limit armaments which was actually put into effect on the basis of the German proposals by the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in June of 1935. Of course, I would have preferred it if the negotiations with all countries concerning proposals for armament limitation had been successful. Nevertheless, this agreement between only two States was warmly welcomed by us as the first step in this direction. We know that at least England held aloof from the decision of the League of Nations, stating that Germany had broken the Versailles Treaty by rearming. The German step was thus recognized as justified.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of two documents from my Document Book 3:

Document 106 is a statement by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Bolton Eyres Monsell, on the English radio, on 19th June, 1935.

The second is Document 119, an excerpt from the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty, Shakespeare, in the House of Commons, on the occasion of the ratification of the London Naval Agreement on 20th July, 1936.


Q. Was German activity in the direction of disarmament limited to the German-English Naval Agreement?

A. No; our willingness to co-operate in a positive way for the limitation of armaments, which had been declared by us on many occasions, also found expression in the negotiations for disarmament in the air. Right from the outset, as early as 1933, Hitler had stressed the importance of this point for the maintenance of peace. Germany was ready to accept any limitation, and even the complete abolition of air armament, if it was done on a reciprocal basis. But only England reacted to such suggestions. The difficulty was to persuade France to participate in the negotiations. She did this only after three months, through

[Page 118]

the efforts of England. But France stipulated conditions which made it practically impossible for these negotiations to succeed.

Apart from a general agreement embracing all European States, special bi-lateral agreements were to be permitted. In addition, the continuation of negotiations on air armament was to be made dependent on negotiations concerning the Eastern Pact. Germany could not participate in this Eastern Pact, since she would have had to assume military obligations, the outcome of which could not be foreseen.

Owing to this and the outbreak of the Italian-Abyssinian war, which brought the differences among the Western Powers into the open, the negotiations came to a standstill.

Q. One year later, in March, 1936, the Rhineland was reoccupied by German troops. The prosecution sees in this a breach of the Locarno Treaty and further proof of your co-responsibility in the alleged conspiracy against peace. Will you comment on this?

A. This assertion is completely untrue. There was no decision or plan to wage aggressive war any more than there had been the year before. The restoration of full sovereignty in all parts of the Reich had no military significance, but only political significance.

The occupation of the Rhineland was carried out with one division only, and this fact alone shows that it had only a purely symbolic character. It was clear that a great and industrious people would not tolerate for ever such a drastic limitation of its sovereignty as had been imposed by the Versailles Treaty. It was simply a dynamic development which the leaders of German foreign policy could not oppose.

Q. Did the reoccupation of the Rhineland take place according to a plan which had been made some time beforehand, or was the decision spontaneous?

A. It was one of those sudden decisions of Hitler which was to be carried out within a few days.

Q. What were the events which led to this immediate decision?

A. On 16th January, 1936, the French Foreign Minister, Laval, announced that after his return from Geneva he would present the Russian-French Pact to the French Chamber for ratification. The fact that Hitler, in an interview with M. de Jouvenel, the correspondent of the French paper Paris Midi, while pointing out the dangers of this pact, once again held out his hand to France in an attempt to bring about an honourable and permanent understanding between the two peoples was of no avail. I had previously discussed this interview in detail with Hitler, and I received the definite impression that he was absolutely serious in his desire for a permanent reconciliation of the two peoples. But this attempt also was in vain. The strong opposition to the pact from large portions of the French people, under the leadership of the Union Nationale des Combattants, and in the parliament itself, could not prevent the French Government from ratifying the pact. The voting took place on 27th February, 1936, in the French Chamber.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the following two documents from my Document Book 4: The first is Document 108, Hitler's interview with the correspondent of Paris Midi, M. de Jouvenel, of 21st February, 1936. The second is Document 107, an excerpt from the speech of the Deputy Montigny in the French Chamber on 13th February, 1936.


Q. On 7th March, 1936, by way of answer to the ratification of this treaty, the German troops marched into the demilitarised Rhineland zone. What considerations caused the German Government to take this very serious step? In view of the hostile attitude of the French, there was a danger that this time the Western Powers would not be satisfied with paper protests and resolutions by the League of Nations, but would proceed by force of arms against this one-sided -

[Page 119]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, is this a question or a statement?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: It is a question. I should like to know the attitude of the Government at that time. If I may make a comment, I must hear these explanations from the defendant himself to clarify the decisions taken at that time, for when, in my final address -

THE PRESIDENT: You were stating a number of facts. It is not for you to state facts. It is your duty to ask the witness.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I did not want to state facts. I wanted to know from the witness what considerations led to the decision.


Q. Will you please describe to us what considerations you put forward at that time?

A. In my previous answers I have already stated why we saw in the French-Russian Pact and in France's whole attitude a most serious threat on the part of France. This accumulation of power in French hands through the various mutual assistance pacts could be directed only against Germany. That was obvious. There was no other country in the world at which it could be directed. In the event of hostilities - a possibility which, in view of the whole situation, any responsible government would have to reckon with - the western border of Germany was completely open owing to the demilitarisation of the Rhineland. This was not only a discriminating provision of the Versailles Treaty but also one which threatened Germany's security most. However, it had become obsolete through the decision of 11th December, 1932, by the five Powers in Geneva.

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