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 5 of 8)

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

[Page 132]


Q. Did you personally take part in the Munich conference which then took place?

A. Yes. In view of Hitler's irritated frame of mind, I was concerned about the course of the conference and I told him that I considered it expedient that I should go to Munich too, since I knew the foreign representatives personally, and for that reason could serve as mediator. When he agreed, Goering invited me to come along in his special train. Later, in the course of the long session, I frequently talked to the three persons and to Hitler and tried to mediate in the differences which arose.

Mr. Chamberlain, at the end of this talk, asked me to arrange a talk with the Fuehrer alone, without Ribbentrop, on the next day, since he would like to make a new suggestion. The Fuehrer did not want this at first, but finally I persuaded him. At this talk, an advisory agreement was reached between England and Germany, which France later joined. Chamberlain, who was living at the same hotel as I, showed me this agreement with great joy after the talk, and I also was glad to see it. I hoped that Anglo-German relations, which had suffered in the Godesberg and Berchtesgaden meetings, might be brought back to normality by this agreement and that the way would be opened for further conferences. As in the summer of '37, Chamberlain invited me to visit him in England. I immediately told him that I did not believe that Hitler, who had forbidden me to go to England in the summer of '37, would now give his approval, especially since I was no longer Foreign Minister. In January, 1938, the English Ambassador repeated the invitation, but I had to tell him that I had had no opportunity to obtain Hitler's approval.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I should like to submit Document 21 in my document book. It is a letter of the French Ambassador at that time, Francois Poncet, dated 18th October, 1938, a few weeks after the Munich conference. I should like to quote only two sentences from it.

[Page 133]

"But of the two of us, it is I who have contracted the greater debt of gratitude. I have always had from you, even at the most delicate moments, the most kind, the most considerate and the most confident reception. You made a difficult task easy for me. I shall never forget what I owe you."
Mr. President, at this point I should like to submit a letter from the French Ambassador Poncet, which was received only a few days ago, which I mentioned with the same request at the beginning of my case. I asked that the French Ambassador be called as a witness, and in answer a letter from the Ambassador, dated 7th June, was sent to the French prosecution, a copy of which I received through the General Secretary's office last week - I believe Thursday or Friday.

In spite of the fact that this letter is not in the prescribed form of an affidavit but is a private letter to the prosecution, I would ask that you honour it as if it were in the form of an affidavit. The original of this letter is in the possession of the French prosecution and the French prosecution has promised to submit the original on the request of the Tribunal. I take the liberty to submit the certified copy.

THE PRESIDENT: The original document should be presented to the Tribunal now, or as soon as it conveniently can be done.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: The day before yesterday I talked to a member of the French prosecution who said they did not have it at the moment. I do not know where they have it. Therefore, I ask that it be submitted; otherwise I would already have submitted it.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, but it must be submitted as soon as possible.


THE PRESIDENT: You wish to offer it in evidence, do you?


THE PRESIDENT: What number is it?


THE PRESIDENT: There is no objection, I take it?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: No objection, my Lord.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: This letter reads - if I may quote at least one brief passage -

THE PRESIDENT: You gave it a number, did you?


THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Go on.


"He" - that is Herr von Neurath - "never aggravated the incidents; on the contrary, he always sought a personal and peaceful solution. He made every effort to facilitate the task of the foreign diplomats in the German capital. They, like myself, were grateful to him. I do not doubt that he often pointed out to Hitler the dangers to which he was exposing Germany by the excesses of his regime, and that he let him hear the voice of prudence and moderation."
Now I come to another subject and I should like to present the following:


Q. The documents presented by the prosecution show that during your period in office as Reich Foreign Minister, a representative of the Foreign Office took part in sessions of the Reich Defence Council, and by the Reich Defence Law of 1938, you, as President of the Secret Cabinet, were a member of this Reich Defence Council.

Will you comment on this?

A. Neither as Reich Foreign Minister nor as President of the Secret Cabinet did I have anything to do with the affairs of the Reich Defence Council. I never took part in any session or talk. As has been stated here, all ministries from the

[Page 134]

time before 1933 had so-called Reich defence experts who were to deal with inter-ministerial questions resulting from possible mobilization in case of a defensive war. As Dr. Schacht has already testified, the Reich Defence Council of 1935 was nothing but the legalisation of a committee which had existed before 1933.

Q. In the existence of such a committee or council for Reich defence, did you see signs of preparation for a war of aggression?

A. No, in no way. The designation clearly indicates that it had to do with preparations for the defence of the Reich against attack, and not preparations for attack. Moreover, I know that in France, as well as in England, such arrangements had existed for a long time.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I should like to submit Document 78, which is on Page 213 of my Document Book 3. It is an excerpt from a statement made by the French War Minister, Petain, on 6th June, 1934, before the Army Commission of the French Chamber, which mentions the necessity of a defence council or committee.

THE PRESIDENT: Just wait a minute. The Tribunal does not think that any evidence that other countries had other organizations is really relevant to this case.


Q. The prosecution asserts that Hitler awarded you more honours than some of the Nazi leaders themselves, and concludes that you were especially close to Hitler. Will you please comment on this.

A. That is a rather remarkable assumption. It was clear that, as the oldest minister, who had served the State for over forty years, Hitler could not overlook me in giving honours and honorary titles, but they were limited to what is customary for the holders of high State positions.

Q. I should like to name the individual awards on which a charge is made against you. You held the Order of the German Eagle and the War Merit Cross First Class.

A. Yes. The Order of the German Eagle was instituted in 1937 and was to be awarded only to foreigners. It would, however, have had no great value abroad but would have been considered more a type of special order, such as the colonial order, if no German had held it. For that reason, in my capacity as Foreign Minister, immediately when the order was instituted Hitler gave me the Grand Cross of the order and thus also heightened the value of this order ....

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, is it not sufficient for the defendant to have said that it was usual to give these titles? It is not necessary for us to investigate the particular merits of the particular order, is it? It seems to me to be very remote.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I mentioned it only because the prosecution also brought it out especially.


Q. A further charge is made by the prosecution that on 30th January, 1937, in that well-known cabinet meeting, you received the Golden Party insignia from Hitler and thus became a member of the Nazi Party. What about that?

A. As to the way in which this was awarded, Herr Schacht as well as Raeder has testified here. I was not a member of any party. Between 1933 and 1937 I had several times been requested to join the Party but had refused. My attitude toward the Party was generally known. For that reason I was repeatedly attacked by the Party. As to the reason why this insignia was awarded on 30th January, 1937, to various members of the Cabinet and also to generals who were not allowed to become members of the Party at all, I believe that has been described in sufficient detail and that I need not go into it again.

[Page 135]

Q. Then, surprisingly, Hitler also made you an honorary Obergruppenfuehrer of the SS.

A. Yes, that was a complete surprise to me. In September, 1937, Mussolini had announced his visit to Germany. For the days just before this visit I was not in Berlin. When I returned in the morning I found my tailor at the entrance of my house with the uniform of an SS Gruppenfuehrer. I asked him what that meant. He told me the Reich Chancellor had instructed him to make me a uniform immediately. I then went to Hitler and asked him why he had done this. He said he wanted all the men who were to be present at the reception of Mussolini to be in uniform. I told him that was not very agreeable to me and I had to explain that in no case would I be subordinate to Himmler and I did not want to have anything to do with the SS. Hitler assured me solemnly that this would not be asked of me, that I need have no obligation to the SS, and this actually did not happen. Moreover, I had no power to issue orders, and my later appointment as Obergruppenfuehrer was apparently made in the course of general promotions without any special emphasis.

Q. Did you wear this uniform at all?

A. Only twice as far as I can recall; at the reception of Mussolini and then when in 1938 I was sent to Ankara to the funeral of Kemal Pasha. On official occasions I always wore the uniform of a civil servant without any insignia.

Q. On your seventieth birthday, on 2nd February, 1943 you received congratulations and other expressions of appreciation of yourself and your activities from various sources. You were congratulated, amongst others, by Hitler and you received, besides, a cheque for 250,000 marks. Will you tell us what was the significance of this donation, if one may call it that.

A. The American Prosecutor recently mentioned this gift. Only he forgot to say that I refused it. The events were as follows:

On the day of my seventieth birthday, in the morning, a deputy of Hitler called on me and brought me a congratulatory letter from Hitler and an oil painting by a young German painter, showing an Italian landscape. The letter enclosed a cheque for 250,000 marks. I was painfully surprised and immediately told the envoy I considered this so-called donation an insult - I am not a lackey whom one pays with a tip - and told him he should take the cheque back with him. He said he was not authorized to do so. The next morning I went to the Reich Finance Minister to give him the cheque for the Reich treasury. He said that for formal reasons - I believe because the cheque was on a special account of Hitler's - he could not accept it. At his advice I turned the cheque over to the Reich Credit Association to a special account and informed the competent finance office in writing. I never touched one penny of this sum. The painting, the value of which was not especially great, I did not refuse, because it was entirely within the limits of a normal birthday gift and sending it back would have been considered a deliberate insult.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I ask permission to submit two letters of the Reich Credit Association in this connection which I received from them on Saturday, upon my request. They contain confirmation that this sum of 250,000 marks in its full extent, plus the interest which has accumulated, is still today in a special account of the Reich Credit Association. This is proof that Herr von Neurath did not, in fact, withdraw a penny of this so-called donation, or use it in any other way.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give us the number of it?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: 160 and 161.

Mr. President, in my haste I have only been able to have the English translation made in my office. The French and Russian translations will be given to the French and Soviet prosecution in the next few days. As I have said, I received it myself only on Saturday afternoon.

[Page 136]


Q. The further charge is made against you that in the conservative circles of Germany you worked as a sort of member of a fifth column to induce them to reconcile themselves with and agree to the National Socialist regime, because the fact that you remained in the Government would be considered an example by them. What have you to say about this?

A. That statement is nonsense because it was known throughout Germany and abroad that I was no National Socialist but that rather I fought against National Socialist excesses against the Church and the Jews and that, in addition, I hindered any policy which endangered peace. This was clearly shown by my dismissal in February, 1938, and the general consternation about this was not publicly expressed in the German Press only because there was no Press available for this. It is therefore completely absurd that these conservative circles would have assumed that I was with all my heart with the Nazis, as the Indictment says. Other countries knew this just as well and saw in me an obstacle to Nazi policy. That I was not regarded as a blind adherent to Nazi theories, as is stated in the Indictment, is best known to the foreign diplomats in Berlin as they could closely observe my constant struggle against the Party.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to submit in this connection an excerpt from the magazine Archiv, Number 27, and an excerpt from an article in the Pester Lloyd, containing the speech which the dean of the Berlin diplomatic corps made in the name of the whole diplomatic corps to Herr von Neurath on his birthday on 2nd February, 1938. Both documents are contained in my Document Book 4, No. 127, and in Document Book 1, No. 18.

With this I have finished the part dealing with foreign politics, and the personal points in the charge against Herr von Neurath. Now I come to the second aspect of the charge, your activity as Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia.


After the settlement of the Sudeten crisis you had withdrawn completely from political life; is that true?

A. Yes. I was in Berlin very seldom. For the most part I was on my estate in Wurttemberg or in the mountains.

Q. In September, 1939, were you in Berlin, and did you have any knowledge of Hitler's plans for an invasion of Czechoslovakia?

A. You mean in the late winter of 1939?

In the late winter, yes.

No, I had kept aloof. The differences between Germany, Czechoslovakia ...

THE PRESIDENT: September, 1939?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: That was my mistake. I meant in the late winter.

THE PRESIDENT: Of 1938, you mean?


THE WITNESS: 1938-39.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In the late autumn of 1938.

THE WITNESS: The differences between us and Czechoslovakia on the treatment of the Sudeten Germans by the Czechs had been solved by the separation of the Sudetenland. The way to friendly co-operation was somewhat smoothed out. One of the focal points of danger for the peace of Europe had been eliminated.

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