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 7 of 10)

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Q. Witness, since when have you known Herr von Neurath?

A. Since 1913. I met him when I joined the Foreign Office. He was legation counsellor in the Foreign Office at that time. I then met him again in Constantinople, and there I had contact with him. Then I did not meet him again until 1930.

Q. In what capacity did you have dealings with von Neurath beginning with 1930?

A. Herr von Neurath was then, from 1930 till 1932, Ambassador to London, and I was head of the department "England-America" in the Foreign Office.

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Q. How was the co-operation during that time between the Foreign Office - that is, yourself - and von Neurath, who was then Ambassador to London?

A. The co-operation was excellent.

Q. Do you know anything about Neurath's appointment to the position of Reich Foreign Minister?

A. I remember that most of the leading officials of the Foreign Office were greatly upset by the sudden departure of Bruning, whose steady and moderate policy we approved at the time. We submitted to the change in the person ofthe Foreign Minister only because Neurath replaced Bruning, and we knew that Neurath was a man of high standards and an experienced diplomat. Furthermore, we knew that he had represented Bruening's policy in London, and we expected that as Foreign Minister he would continue that policy.

I met Herr von Neurath, I think it was on 2nd June, at the station in Berlin when he arrived in Germany. From conversations with him I gathered the impression that he very much disliked leaving London to take over the Foreign Ministry. But he said to me: "I do not think I shall be able to refuse the wish of the old gentleman." That, of course, was Reich President von Hindenburg.

Q. What position did you hold yourself during the time when you worked under von Neurath in the Foreign Ministry?

A. At first, I remained at the head of the England-America department until 1936. Afterwards, in April, 1936, I took over the re-established political department. In June, State Secretary von Bulow died, and in August, 1936, I was appointed acting State Secretary in the Foreign Office. I remained in that provisional position until March, 1937, and then I became Ambassador to Washington.

Q. Did von Neurath, as Foreign Minister, retain the old officials of the Foreign Office?

A. He retained the old officials in practically all the leading positions of both the domestic and the foreign service. The State Secretary von Bulow, for instance, remained four years, until his death, in the same position in the Foreign Office.

He sent Ambassador Hoesch to London as his successor, and he sent Ambassador von Hassel to Rome, and Ambassador Kessler to Paris; all these were old diplomatic officials.

Q. Can you tell us from your own experience during your activities what the aims of Neurath's foreign policy were?

A. It was the aim of von Neurath to maintain good relations with all States, and thereby to re-establish gradually Germany's status of equal rights which she had lost in 1919. This was the same policy as had been Stresemann's and Bruening's. Herr von Neurath was aware of the difficulties of Germany's position. He talked to me about it repeatedly. He was under no misapprehension about it. He saw things realistically. His tendency was to exercise moderation.

Q. What do you know about Neurath's entry into Hitler's Government, which was formed on 30th January, 1933?

A. I only know about this what I was told by State Secretary von Bulow when I returned to Berlin from leave at the beginning of February of that year. According to this, Herr von Neurath had no part in the formation of the new Cabinet, that is, Hitler's Cabinet. Apart from that, he was sick during that time. He heard of the plan of making Hitler Reich Chancellor and of forming a new government. He wanted to discuss it with Reich President von Hindenburg in order to obtain certain reservations for himself, but he came too late, and could not obtain these reservations. In spite of this, he retained the Foreign Ministry in the new Cabinet because he did not want to refuse the wish of the Reich President.

Q. Do you know anything about Neurath's attitude towards the National Socialist domestic policy?

A. I know that Herr von Neurath, soon after the 30th January, 1933, viewed the domestic policy with some anxiety; chiefly because he felt that it strongly

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affected our foreign policy. When, in June, 1933, I visited him in London, where he attended a conference as head of the German delegation, he told me about his anxieties; but he thought that these things would die down and that developments would be similar to those in Fascist Italy, where things had been very turbulent in the beginning, but had settled down afterwards. He was hoping that the same would happen in Germany.

Q. I am coming now to the year 1936. One of the principal questions which dominated that year was the Austrian problem. Can you tell us what Neurath's attitude was toward the repeated interferences of German circles in the internal affairs of Austria?

A. Yes. Herr von Neurath considered such German interference in the internal affairs of Austria not only inadmissible, but damaging. He told me so repeatedly. He was striving for an economic improvement of the relations with Austria, and thus a gradual improvement in the political relations also. He wanted to leave the sovereignty of Austria untouched. Also, the object of the agreement of 11th July between Germany and Austria was the economic strengthening of Austria, and thereby the re-establishment of good political relations between the two countries.

Q. Did you hear anything before March, 1938, about Hitler's intention to incorporate Austria into Germany, if necessary with force?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever hear anything before 1938 about Hitler's intention to solve the Sudeten problem by force, or even to attack Czechoslovakia?

A. No.

Q. Do you know whether Hitler was in full agreement until November, 1937, with the peaceful policy which von Neurath pursued with regard to both Austria and Czechoslovakia, and also with regard to the other European countries?

A. Until von Neurath's resignation in February, 1938, I always presumed that Hitler agreed with the peaceful policy pursued by von Neurath, and I never heard or learned anything to the contrary.

Q. Do you know what the thoughts, the considerations were of Herr von Neurath in 1935 regarding the question of rearmament, that is to say, the reestablishment of Germany's military sovereignty?

A. I know that Herr von Neurath, realising that Germany, by the declaration of the Western Powers on 11th December, 1932, had been granted equality of rights considered she had the indisputable right to rearm after all disarmament efforts had failed.

Q. I should like to put the same question to you, with regard to the considerations and attitude of Herr von Neurath, with reference to the remilitarization of the demilitarised Rhineland.

A. I know that von Neurath was aware of the seriousness of this problem, for he knew that the problem of the remilitarization of the Rhineland was interconnected with the Locarno Pact; but I know that he saw a breach of the Locarno Pact in the Franco-Russian agreement of mutual assistance concluded in May, 1935, and that as a result of the ratification of this Pact, or its coming into effect, he firmly believed that Germany had the right to re-establish military sovereignty in the Rhineland.

Q. In view of the general political situation in those days, was it not justifiable to assume that sooner or later a peaceful solution of this Rhineland problem would be arrived at in any case?

A. The actual development after 7th March, 1936, showed that the Western Power - though they did not agree to the remilitarization of the Rhineland - nevertheless very quickly acquiesced in the fait accompli. I was at that time, during the second half of March, 1936, for two weeks in London, on behalf of the Reich Government, and I had the opportunity to discuss this matter with a number of Englishmen; and the view I found in the widest circles was that as Germany had been granted equality of rights, one couldn't deny her the right to remilitarize

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the Rhineland. In some circles I even found the view that it was a relief that the remilitarization of the Rhineland, which was due sooner or later in any case, was carried out so quickly and comparatively painlessly.

Q. And now one last question. What do you know about von Neurath's resignation from the position of Reich Foreign Minister in February, 1938?

A. I was Ambassador to Washington at that time, and I was completely surprised by Foreign Minister von Neurath's sudden departure. I did know that there were many things he did not agree with and that he had asked several times to be allowed to resign. I also knew that he was ill. He suffered from a neurotic heart. I also knew that he had passed his sixty-fifth birthday, a fact which gave him the right to retire. But I was surprised all the same, particularly as I didn't know the details at that time. I very much regretted his resignation, as I had confidence in his peace policy. I remember that the official circles in Washington also regretted the departure of Herr von Neurath very much, for Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles approached me a few days after this event and told me that the American Government regretted the departure of this man who had pursued a moderate policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I have no further questions to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the defendants' counsel wish to ask him any questions?

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. One single question, witness. You said that if von Neurath assumed the office of Foreign Minister, you had expected that he would continue Stresemann's and Bruening's policy. According to your knowledge, did he actually continue Bruening's policy after he became Foreign Minister?

A. Yes.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Thank you.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, on the same basis as I intimated with regard to the last witness; the prosecution do not desire to take up time by asking any questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness may retire.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I then have your permission to call my third and last witness, Dr. Voelkers, into the witness stand.

HANS HERMANN VOELKERS, a witness, took the stand, and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Hans Hermann Voelkers.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Witness, you were twice the personal adviser (Referent) to Herr von Neurath; first in his position as Foreign Minister, and later in his position as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia; is that correct?

A. Yes; since 1920, I was a member of the Foreign Office and I spent all my time abroad. Under Stresemann I spent four years in Geneva as the German permanent representative and Consul General to the League of Nations, and in

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1932 I was called to the Foreign Office and became personal adviser (Referent) to the newly appointed Foreign Minister, Herr von Neurath. I remained in that position for one year and then, upon my own request, I was sent to Madrid as an Embassy Counsel and later I became Minister to Havana; in 1939 I was called back to the Foreign Office to act as personal adviser (Referent) with the title of "Cabinet Chief" to Herr von Neurath, who, in the meantime, had been appointed Reich Protector in Prague.

Q. Did this appointment as personal adviser (Referent) to Herr von Neurath in Prague take place on the basis of any personal relations or merely for professional reasons?

A. Only for professional reasons. Until I was transferred to Berlin I did not know Herr von Neurath.

Q. What was the attitude of the officials of the Foreign Ministry towards Neurath's appointment as Foreign Minister?

A. I had the impression that the officials of the Foreign Office were generally most satisfied that, in view of the difficult internal political situation, an old professional diplomat and expert minister had taken over the direction of the Foreign Ministry, because they saw in that a guarantee for a steady foreign political course; all the more so as it was known that von Neurath had the special confidence of the Reich President von Hindenburg, and because he enjoyed, due to his personality and his equanimity, the special recognition and veneration of all the officials of the Foreign Office.

When Hitler came to power, I had the impression that he was sceptical and reserved towards him. Von Neurath did not belong to the circle of the closer associates of Hitler, and during the time I was with him, he never attended those evening conferences which Hitler held in the Reich Chancellery in those days. Gradually, however, the pressure on the Foreign Office increased more and more. The foreign organization (Auslandsorganization) was created and the "Office Ribbentrop" started a competitive enterprise into which all sorts of people were called who had made journeys abroad; they made all sorts of reports which went directly to the Fuehrer without being controlled by the Foreign Office. And then later on, the head of the foreign organization was installed as commissioner in the Office of Foreign Affairs (Auslandsamt) while Prince Waldeck was transferred into the personnel department of the Foreign Office. At that stage the pressure became so strong that finally one could not fight against it any more.

But the fact that the Foreign Office had isolated itself for so long and that it was still evading the pressure of the Party, that, I think, is certainly the merit of the then Foreign Minister and his State Secretary von Bulow. Again, when the Jewish laws were then introduced into the Foreign Office, I know that von Neurath protected, as far as that was possible, his officials. I was in Stockholm during the last two years of the war and met there two former colleagues of mine with whom I am close friends - one is Ministerial Director Richard Meier who used to be in charge of the postal department, and who had to leave quite soon, and who often told me in Stockholm how grateful he was to von Neurath for not only having enabled him to take with him his family and his furniture when he went abroad, but also because von Neurath, until the collapse, continued to pay him his monthly pension in Swedish crowns.

Q. What was your position and your activity in Prague in the Government of the Protectorate?

A. My position in Prague with the Government of the Protectorate was approximately the same as the one I had seven years earlier when I had been personal adviser (Referent) to the Foreign Minister in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, with the exception that in the Foreign Office there is a special protocol department, and a Chief of Protocol, whereas in Prague, and that was really my chief occupation, I was also in charge of all protocols and ceremonial affairs. I was head of the so-called "Office of the Reich Protector," not to be confused with the principal authority (grosse Behorde) with which I had nothing to do. When I came to

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Prague in the summer of 1939, the office had been at work for several months. My predecessor was one Legation Counsellor von Kessel, from the Foreign Office. Apart from myself, two other officials from the Foreign Office, who were subordinated to me, belonged to the "Office of the Reich Protector," also one Count Waldburg, whose mother was a Czech and who was engaged by the Reich Protector because he was hoping to establish through him especially good relations with the Czechs.

The office was responsible, apart from the general and usual routine matters, for dealing with the private correspondence and the handling of personal petitions. In the course of time we had to set up a special department, because later on, when the many arrests took place, we received so many petitions, most of which were addressed to the Reich Protector personally -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, surely this is very remote from anything we have got to consider, and all the previous evidence this witness has given has been cumulative evidence which has not been cross-examined upon before, and now what he is saying is all very remote to anything we have got to consider.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In fact, I have already come to an end, Mr. President. I merely wanted to show that he is in a position to answer the following questions from his own knowledge.

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