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-Fourth Day: Wednesday, 26th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page209 ]

THE PRESIDENT: That was not the question. The question was whether they were correctly stated, as a matter of fact. You can answer that.

THE WITNESS: Yes ... no.

THE PRESIDENT: Which do you mean - Yes or no?

THE WITNESS: The decorations are correctly stated. Apart from that, it is, not correct.

MAJOR-GENERAL RAGINSKY: I have no further questions to put.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, do you wish to re-examine?

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

Mr. President, yesterday afternoon, I had the feeling and impression, probably not without reason, that Baron von Neurath was visibly tired and strained after the previous examination, and that he was no longer in a position to do complete justice to the questions which were put to him. This, after all, is not surprising, if one considers that Herr von Neurath is in his 74th year, and besides that, is also suffering from a fairly serious heart disease. I feel obliged, therefore, to refer back to various points of the cross-examination of yesterday and put a few questions to him.



Q. Herr von Neurath, you stated yesterday that because of the excesses of the SA and other radical groups in 1933 and later, you frequently protested to Hitler. What was the reason? Why you remonstrated with Hitler directly and did not raise your objections at the Cabinet meetings which were still taking place at that time?

[Constantin von Neurath] A. I had already learned from personal experience that Hitler could not stand contradiction of any kind, and that he was not amenable to any kind of petition if it was made before a fairly large group, because then he would always develop the complex that he was facing some sort of opposition against which he had to defend himself. It was different when one confronted him alone. Then, at least during the earlier years, he was accessible, thoroughly amenable to reasonable arguments, and much could be achieved in the way of moderating or weakening radical measures.

Moreover, I should like to mention again that just after the excesses mentioned in Mr. Geist's affidavit there was a meeting of the Cabinet, during which strong protests were raised against the repetition of such occurrences by various ministers, including non-Nazi ministers. At that time, Hitler thoroughly agreed with these objections, and declared that such excesses would not be allowed to recur. Shortly afterwards he also made a speech in which he publicly expressed an assurance to this effect. From then until June, 1934, no more excesses took place.

Q. But in April, 1933, there was the well-known anti-Jewish boycott, which lasted twenty-four hours, if I am not mistaken?

A. Yes, that was one of Herr Goebbels's demands. But actually there were no excesses and acts of violence whatsoever on that occasion. It was confined merely to boycotting.

Moreover, the fact that no further arguments arose in that case was the result of a joint intercession by Herr von Papen and myself with Hitler and especially with Hindenburg. A perfectly correct description of this episode is to be found, as I recall, in an article of Time for April, 1933, which is also contained in my document book.

[Page 210]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, it was submitted in my Document Book 9.


Q. In connection with the events that occurred at that time, arrests, and so forth, Sir David yesterday referred particularly to the arrest of the well-known author Ossietzky. Do you recall that this Ossietzky had already been sentenced to a fairly long prison term by a German court, even before the seizure of power?

A. Yes, I remembered that afterwards. I remember that even before the seizure of power, I do not know under which government Herr Ossietzky had been sentenced by a national court to a fairly long term of imprisonment for high treason, but he had not yet served it, and consequently was arrested again.

Q. Now I should like to ask you another question with reference to the report submitted by the prosecution yesterday. It is the letter of Ministerial Director Koepke of 31st May, 1934. That is Exhibit GB 668. In this report, from the information noted down by Herr Koepke, do you see any proof that the Foreign Office was drawn into the subversive activities of the Austrian Nazis?

A. No, not at all. This has to do with a report which Ministerial Director Koepke made to me about a visit by Herr Wachter, whom he described as an Austrian with a sense of responsibility. This Herr Wachter had tried to establish a connection with the Foreign Office and with Hitler in order to draw attention to the dangers arising from the growing radicalism of the Austrian Nazis. The head of the Political Department, Herr Koepke, identifies himself with Wachter regarding these apprehensions and agreed to make an oral report to that effect.

I do not think that anyone can doubt that my attitude was not quite the same as that of Herr Koepke, and I passed this report on to Hitler in order to draw his attention to the matter.

Q. The prosecution - or rather, Sir David - referred yesterday to reports which deal with the treatment of the Czech problem by you and Frank. This is Document 3859-PS, a letter which you sent to the Chief of the Reich Chancellery, Lammers, on 31st August, 1940, for the preparation of your oral report to Hitler. Were these reports, that is, the ones drafted by Frank, identical with the memorandum mentioned in the Frederici document of 15th October?

A. Yes, apparently these are the same reports.

Q. Now, during your examination you spoke about the Frederici document, which you said was based on plans of the SS, Party circles, and the Gauleiter of the Lower Danube district, regarding a deportation of Czechs to the eastern territories. You went on to say that in order to stop these plans, which you yourself described as nonsensical, you got Frank to prepare this memorandum, in which a less radical solution was recommended, and that this, later, had also been approved to a certain extent by Hitler, and that in reality nothing happened, which was what you intended, and that the idea of incorporation had practically been buried. Is that right?

A. Yes, that is true. The whole affair and the origin of these memoranda are extremely difficult to explain. It can only be understood from the entire domestic political development. The efforts of the Gauleiter of the surrounding districts to partition the Protectorate had proceeded rather far. They had all submitted memoranda and Herr Himmler backed them up. All these memoranda envisaged a radical solution of these problems, and, therefore, there was reason to fear that Hitler would comply with the wishes of these Gauleiter. In order to stop him, I had to make several proposals which I myself had said were impracticable, and I identified myself with them primarily so as to declare them absurd later on.

That is the only explanation of the origin of these memoranda. I did not draft the memoranda myself, but that was done in my office, in accordance, to be sure, with instructions given by me.

This was, however, and I should like to emphasize this expressly, a purely tactical manoeuvre to reach Hitler, because I was afraid that he would follow the

[Page 211]

radical suggestions made by Himmler and his associates. I did actually manage to get Hitler to issue a strict order - which is what I had requested - to the effect that all these plans were no longer to be discussed, but that only the so- called assimilation plan was left, which could only be carried out over a period of years and, as a matter of fact, nothing more happened, and that was exactly what I was aiming at.

Q. A decree was submitted by the prosecution yesterday, which was issued to the German authorities in the Protectorate, regarding the treatment to be given to the German-Czech problem publicly. That is Document 3862, dated 27th June, 1941.

Is that in any way connected with these memoranda or the discussion you had with Hitler about it?

A. Yes, it is most closely connected, and I think I said so yesterday. In the following year the same agitation started all over again for this Germanisation and partitioning of the Protectorate, and I opposed it, and, once the question was decided, I prohibited it from being reopened.

Q. A document was submitted yesterday, as Exhibit USSR 487, of the Chief of the Security Police, addressed to State Secretary Frank, dated 21st July, 1943, that is to say, after you had resigned. From that document the prosecution are attempting to draw the conclusion that you, in accordance with a decree dated 5th May, 1939, used the leader of the SA and Security Police in Prague as your political adviser.

In what way did he act in this capacity? Did he act at all?

A. No, he did not; that is just it. It is clearly apparent from this letter of reminder, dated 21st July, 1943, that he never became at all active in this respect.

MAJOR-GENERAL RAGINSKY: Mr. President, I should like to state here that the question was incorrectly put. This document is not dated 1943 or 1942, but 21st July, 1939.

A. May I remark here that it makes no difference, as nothing had happened. I did not appoint any political adviser.


Q. What measures followed Documents 3851-PS and 3858-PS, which were introduced yesterday by the prosecution, and which were proposals submitted by various departments and department heads of your administration regarding the utilization of labour of the students who became unemployed through the closing down of the Czech universities?

A. I have already told you yesterday that this apparently concerned a suggestion by an adviser which never even reached me, but was rejected by my assistant State Secretary before it got to me. Just how I could possibly be held responsible for the contents of a draft submitted by an adviser, I cannot understand.

Q. Now I should like to put one more question to you regarding the German-Austrian agreement of 11th July, 1936. As is mentioned in a report by Dr. Rainer to Burckel, which the prosecution has already submitted - I refer to Document PS-812 - is it correct that Hitler, immediately after the signing of that agreement, had personally declared to Dr. Rainer and the Austrian Nazi Leader Globocnik that this agreement of 11th July, 1936, was signed by him in all honesty and sincerity, and that the Austrian National Socialists too should under all circumstances adhere strictly to it, and that they were to let themselves be guided by it in their conduct toward the Austrian Government?

A. Yes, that is correct. As I think I said to you yesterday, I believe I can also remember that Rainer actually confirmed it here when he was on the witness stand.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: One last question, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: He answered these questions perfectly clearly, according to his view, yesterday.

[Page 212]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, I have finished now, except for one more question, which will conclude the entire examination of my client.


Q. The prosecution and also Sir David brought the following charge against you yesterday. They charged that although by your own admission you were not in agreement with the Nazi regime and its methods, and although you considered many of the things that occurred reprehensible and immoral and abhorred them, you did not resign, but remained in the Government. Will you please explain that to us once more?

A. I have already mentioned that I had given my promise to Hindenburg to enter the Government and to remain there as long as it was at all possible for me to follow a moderate course that did not favour the use of violence, and to protect Germany from warlike developments. That was my task and nothing else. But it was not only this promise I had given to Hindenburg that bound me to this office, but also my sense of duty, and my feeling of responsibility towards the German people - to protect them from warlike developments as long as it was at all possible. Beside these considerations, all my personal wishes, which were quite different, had to take second place.

Unfortunately, my power and influence as Foreign Minister did not extend far enough to enable me to prevent pernicious and immoral actions in other spheres, as for instance, that of domestic policy, although I did try in many cases, not least of all in the Jewish question itself.

However, I considered that my highest duty was to carry out the work assigned to me and not try to avoid it, even if in another sphere where I had no influence, things occurred which hurt me and my conscience very deeply.

There may be many people who have different ideas and a different attitude to mine. I experienced similar attacks when I placed myself at the disposal of a Social Democrat Cabinet in the year 1919 after the first revolution; at that time, too, the strongest attacks and the most serious accusations were made against me.

Q. Yet you yourself have struggled hard with your conscience, you have often told me.

A. Yes, of course I have. It is not easy to belong to a government with whose tendencies you do not agree, and for which one is to be made responsible later on.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, this completes my examination. I would suggest we adjourn now and then I might be permitted to begin the examination of my witnesses.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will now adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, you have some questions to ask?

DR. HORN: Mr. President, I ask permission for my client to be absent from the session this afternoon and tomorrow, because I have important questions to discuss with him.

THE PRESIDENT: The defendant von Ribbentrop?

DR. HORN: Von Ribbentrop, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

DR. HORN: Thank you.

DR. THOMA (counsel for the defendant Rosenberg): Mr. President, yesterday afternoon General Raginsky asked whether Rosenberg interfered in Neurath' s foreign policy. The interpreter has just told me that she erroneously transmitted Rosenberg's name instead of that of Ribbentrop. In order to clarify the situation, may I be permitted to ask Herr von Neurath whether his foreign policy was interfered with by Rosenberg.

[Page 213]

THE WITNESS: No, in no way. I never talked to Rosenberg about matters of foreign policy.

DR. THOMA: Then I ask that the transcript be corrected accordingly.

THE PRESIDENT: The record will be corrected.

BY THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Justice Biddle):

Q. I want to ask you just a very few questions. You will remember that the Baroness yon Ritter said that after 5th November, 1937, you recognized - I want to read it exactly:

"When Herr von Neurath had to recognize for the first time from Hitler's statement on 5th November, 1937, that the latter wanted to achieve his political aims by using force towards neighbouring States, this shook him so severely mentally that he suffered several severe heart attacks."
That is a correct description; is it not, of what you then recognized?

A. (Nods head.)

Q. Now, you stated that you spoke immediately after that meeting to General Beck and General yon Fritsch. Do you remember?

A. Yes.

Q. And I think you said to Sir David that you did not speak to the defendant Goering. What I am asking you now is whether you spoke of what Hitler had said to anyone else during the next two or three months. Did you speak to anyone in the Foreign Office?

A. I spoke to my State Secretary.

Q. And to whom else from the Foreign Office?

A. No one, for Hitler had laid down the Condition that silence should be preserved about all of these meetings; and for that reason I did not speak to my assistants about them. They knew nothing. They had learned nothing from the military men, either.

Q. Did you speak to the defendant Papen when you saw him next?

A. No. I believe I did not see him at all at that time.

Q. And did you discuss it with anybody else before your resignation?

A. No.

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