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 2 of 8)

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

[Page 119]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, the Tribunal thinks this is all argument. If there are any facts as to what the German Government did at the time, after the French and Russian Pact and before the entry into the Rhineland, the witness can give these facts, but this is mere argument and the Tribunal is well aware of the argument. It does not require them to be restated and certainly not to be restated in the course of the evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I merely wanted to avoid that when later in my final speech I refer to this point, the objection might be made that these are my opinions. I want to show -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, that is quite a wrong conception. We are now hearing evidence. When we hear you we shall be hearing arguments and we shall be prepared to hear any argument from you.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, but I want to avoid it being said these are my arguments. These arguments come from the defendant.

THE PRESIDENT: I am pointing out to you that it is the function of counsel to argue and it is the function of the Tribunal to listen to argument. It is not the function of the Tribunal to listen to argument in the course of evidence.


THE WITNESS: Perhaps I may make one statement. In the course of the winter of 1936, we had learned through our military intelligence service that the French General Staff already had a military plan for invading Germany. This invasion was to take place through the Rhineland, along the so-called line of the river Main to Czechoslovakia in order to join the Russian ally.


Q. On the basis of what the President just said, I shall continue with the evidence, and reserve for myself the right to introduce the arguments in my final speech. I should like to ask just one more question. Did the decision to reoccupy the Rhineland constitute any aggressive intention at the moment or later on?

A. No, none whatever. The reoccupation, as can be seen from my statements, had a purely defensive character and was not intended to have any other purpose.

[Page 120]

The occupation with such weak forces as only one division made it clear that it was a purely symbolic act. That has been testified to here by the military - the witness Mitch, for example - that the Luftwaffe had no part whatever and had learned of the action only two or three days before. That there were no aggressive plans for the future is shown by the fact that the German Government, at the suggestion of England, on 12th March, 1936, pledged itself, until such time as an understanding had been reached with the Western Powers, particularly with France, not to increase the garrisons in the Rhineland and not to move the troops any closer to the border than they were already, on the condition, however, that France would do the same. France did not want to accept this offer. Then, in the memorandum of 7th March, 1936, addressed to the signatory powers of Locarno, and which the prosecution has already submitted here, Germany not only made definite suggestions for an agreement with France, Belgium and the other Locarno Powers, but also declared her willingness to sign a general air pact to avoid the danger of sudden air raids and, in addition, to join the League of Nations again. In a speech in the Reichstag on 7th March, 1936, Hitler explained to the world the reasons for the reoccupation of the Rhineland. This speech, as well as the memorandum, I had discussed beforehand with Hitler, and I can only repeat that I did not have the slightest suspicion that Hitler was not honest and was trying to conceal his real intentions, which tended towards war. Even today I have the firm conviction that at that time Hitler was not thinking of war. I need not emphasize that any such intention was far from my own thoughts. On the contrary, I considered the restoration of sovereignty throughout the Reich a step towards peace and understanding.

THE PRESIDENT: Let us get on. Dr. Ludinghausen, you are allowing the defendant to make long, long speeches. That is not the object of evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to submit various documents in this connection and ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the following documents in my Document Book 4. First, No. 109, memorandum of 7th March, 1936, from the Reich Government to the signatory powers of the Locarno Treaty; the official statement of the German Reich Government on 13th March, 1936, No. 112 and No. 113, the communication from the German Ambassador in London to the British Foreign Minister Eden on 12th March, 1936, and a memorandum dated 3rd January, 1936, sent by the German Government to the British Government through the ambassador extraordinary in London, Herr von Ribbentrop.


Q. What were the consequences of the reoccupation of the Rhineland as far as foreign policy was concerned?

A. In consideration of the wishes of the President of the Tribunal, I will not comment on this question.

Q. What did the Western Powers do? Did they take any political or diplomatic steps?

A. Foreign Minister Eden said in the House of Commons that Germany's procedure did not constitute any threat and promised to give careful consideration to the German peace proposals.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to submit and ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the following documents in my Document Book 4: No. 125, excerpts from a speech of the American Under Secretary of State Welles on "The Versailles Treaty and Europe," of 7th July, 1937; Document No. 120, excerpt from the decree of the People's Commissars of the U.S.S.R. on the lowering of the age for military service; and No. 117, a report of the Czechoslovak Minister in the Hague dated 21st April, 1936.


Q. Herr von Neurath, did you or the Foreign Office discontinue any further steps and attempts towards a peaceful understanding with the other European Powers or did you persevere with them?

[Page 121]

A. These efforts were continued. The next opportunity was provided by our relations with Austria. The development of these relations since 1933 has already been described in detail before the Tribunal; but I should like especially to stress the fact that in our relations with Austria my views remained unchanged from start to finish; that is, I wanted close economic relations, such as a customs union, between the two countries and a similarly directed foreign policy on the basis of State treaties and close contact between the two governments, but whatever happened I wanted to see the full independence of Austria guaranteed. For that reason, I was always an outspoken opponent of any interference in the internal political affairs of that country, and I was against any support being given to the Austrian National Socialists by the German National Socialists in the fight of the former against Dollfuss and Schuschnigg; and I constantly urged Hitler to take the same line. I need not repeat that I sharply condemned the murder of Dollfuss from the moral as well as the political point of view. The Foreign Office, under my direction, had nothing whatever to do with this murder, as the prosecution has asserted. But that Hitler also had absolutely nothing to do with the murder, I can confirm from various statements which he made to me. The deed was carried out by Austrian National Socialists who were, in some cases, much more radical than the Germans. This attitude of mine is best proved by the fact that when, shortly after the murder of Dollfuss, the German Minister in Vienna, Herr Rieth, without my knowledge, asked the Austrian Government for free passage to Germany for several persons involved in the murder, I at once recalled him from Vienna and dismissed him from the Foreign Service. In the same way I myself, as well as a number of other Ministers, opposed the travel ban imposed on Austria by Germany, but I welcomed the efforts for an understanding with Austria, which started in 1935 and were carried through with success by von Papen, and I always tried to influence Hitler to bring this about. As to von Papen's actions in Vienna during this time, I was only imperfectly informed, as Herr von Papen was not under me and received his orders directly from Hitler. It was only during this trial that I learned about the series of letters which von Papen wrote to Hitler.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to quote two passages, one from a letter from Herr von Neurath to the head of the political section of the Foreign Office, dated 28th June, 1934, No. 84 in my Document Book 3, Page 227, which says in regard to conditions at that time:

"The development of events in Austria cannot be foreseen. It appears to me, however, that the acute danger - "
THE PRESIDENT: You are going a little bit too fast. You did not observe the light. The light came on. You are going a little bit too fast. Go on.


"The development of events in Austria cannot be foreseen. It appears to me, however, that the acute danger has been averted due to rapid action. We should act with great reserve now, and to this end I spoke to the Reich Chancellor yesterday. I found complete understanding."
Then I should like to quote a passage from the affidavit of Bishop Dr. Wurm, already submitted by me, No. 1 in my Document Book 1, on Page 3. It says:
"I remember especially his - Herr von Neurath's - severe condemnation of the occurrences in Vienna during which Chancellor Dollfuss was murdered, and of the person used by Hitler during the agitation in Austria."
Then, in this connection, I should like to refer to a document which Herr Seyss-Inquart, or his defence counsel, has already submitted under No. E.S. 32, which is an interview of the State Chancellor, Dr. Renner, of 3rd April, 1938. As a precaution, I have included it once more in my document book under No. 130, Document Book 4.

[Page 122]


Q. Herr von Neurath, you know that the charge is made against you that on 11th July, 1936, an agreement was made between Germany and Austria in the course of these negotiations by von Papen and that this agreement, which has been discussed here in detail, was concluded with intent to deceive, that is, with the purpose of lulling Austria into a sense of security and preparing for her future incorporation into the Reich. Will you comment on this point?

A. This assertion is absolutely untrue. In effect I honestly and gladly welcomed this agreement. It corresponded to my point of view in every respect. I saw in this the best means of clearing up the unnatural dissensions, and for that reason I did everything I could to bring it about. The assertion of the prosecution has been disproved by the statements of the former Austrian Foreign Minister, Dr. Guido Schmidt. I found satisfaction in the fact that the agreement had a special significance as regards foreign policy. By this agreement, in which the Reich clearly recognized Austrian independence, the German-Austrian differences, which were a danger to peace in Europe, were removed.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection, I submit the agreement between Germany and Austria of 11th July, 1936, under No. 118, Document Book 4, and I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of it.


Q. Herr von Neurath, apart from clearing up the Austrian question in the years before 1937, you also carried on negotiations with Eastern European States. In the affidavit of the American Consul General Messersmith, which the prosecution has submitted as Exhibit USA 68, it is asserted that the purpose of these negotiations was to get these south-eastern States to acquiesce in the destruction and splitting up of Czechoslovakia contemplated by Germany, and even to take an active part in it. For this purpose, in the course of these negotiations, you are even supposed to have promised these States, or got others to promise them, that they would receive parts of Czechoslovakia and even Austrian territory as a reward. Will you please comment on this?

A. These assertions of Mr. Messersmith are pure invention and a figment of the imagination from beginning to end. There is not one word of truth in them. I can only call this affidavit fantasy. It is not even true that, as he says, Mr. Messersmith was a close friend of mine. I met him a few times at large gatherings, but I avoided discussing politics with him, because I knew that in his reports and other statements about talks which he had had with diplomats he repeated things in a way which did not always correspond to the truth. This affidavit, significantly, does not contain accurate indications of the sources from which he obtained his information.

My negotiations with the south-eastern countries, as well as my personal trips to their capitals, had, in reality, the sole purpose of strengthening the existing economic relations, and promoting mutual trade and exchange of goods. In addition, I wanted to gain information about the political situation in the Balkans, always difficult to grasp.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In my Document Book 2, under No. 30, Page 87, I have a short excerpt from another affidavit of Mr. Messersmith, dated 30th August, 1945. The prosecution has already submitted it as Exhibit USA 68, in another connection. [See Part 1, p. 237.] I should like to quote one passage from this excerpt. It is on Page 87 of my Document Book 2, and reads:

"During the years 1933-1934 the Nazi Government left the German Foreign Office for the most part in charge of conservative officials of the old school. Generally speaking, this situation continued throughout the period during which Baron von Neurath was Foreign Minister. After von Ribbentrop became Chief of the Foreign Office, the situation gradually changed as regards the political officials. During von Neurath's tenure of office, the German Foreign Office had not been brought into line with Nazi ideology,

[Page 123]

and von Neurath and his assistants can hardly be blamed for acts of German foreign policy during this period, though his continuation in office may appear to indicate his agreement with National Socialist aims. In defence of these activities von Neurath might easily adduce reasons of patriotic motives."
Then, in regard to these trips and the policy of the defendant in the South-East, I am submitting the three communiques on von Neurath's visit to Belgrade, Sofia, and Budapest in June, 1937, under Nos. 122, 123 and 124, in my Document Book 4. I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of them.


Q. Herr von Neurath, the prosecution is using your speech of 29th August, 1937, made at a demonstration in Stuttgart of Germans living abroad, to bring a charge against you, inasmuch as it sees in one of your remarks the aggressive intentions of your policy. It quotes the following words which you are supposed to have used in your speech:

"The unity of the racial and national will, created through Nazism, with unparalleled elan [See Part 1, p. 113], has made possible a foreign policy through which the bonds of the Versailles Treaty were slashed, the freedom to arm regained, and the sovereignty of the whole nation re-established. We have again become master in our own home, and we have produced the means of power to remain so for all time. The world should notice from Hitler's deeds and words that his aims are not aggressive war."
DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to point out that these sentences can be understood only if taken with their context. I should like to ask the permission of the Tribunal to state briefly what the context is. This excerpt from the speech is submitted by me in Document Book 4, No. 126. I quote:
"We have become master in our own home. We have produced the means of power to remain so for all time."
THE PRESIDENT: You have just read that. You have read it once.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes. I should like to read the sentence in between.

THE PRESIDENT: You may read anything which is relevant and which was omitted, of course.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The quotation that I am submitting reads:

"But this attitude of the new German Reich is in reality the strongest bulwark for safeguarding peace and will always prove itself as such in a world in turmoil. Just because we have recognized the danger of certain destructive tendencies which are attempting to assert themselves in Europe, we are not looking for differences between countries and peoples, but are trying to find connecting links. We are not thinking of political isolation. We want political co-operation between governments, a co-operation which, if it is to be successful, cannot be based on theoretical ideas of collectivity, but on living reality, and which must devote itself to the concrete tasks of the present. We can state with satisfaction that in pursuing such a realistic peace policy, we are working hand in hand with our friend Italy. This justifies the hope that we may also reach a friendly understanding with other nations regarding important questions of foreign policy."
THE PRESIDENT: I think this is a convenient time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

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