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 8 of 10)

[DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN continues his direct examination of Hans Hermann Voelkers]

[Page 231]


Q. What can you tell us from your own observations and experiences about the attitude of Herr von Neurath toward the Czechs?

A. I can only give you general impressions. As I have already told you, I had nothing to do with the actual activities of the office, but was only attached to Herr von Neurath personally for his private affairs and all ceremonial matters. But I do know, and he told me, that when he took over his position as Reich Protector, he did so with the intention of treating the Czech population as justly and decently as possible in order to create, by smoothing out the differences, a healthy basis for a peaceful living side by side of the two nations. He told me frequently that he was appointed Reich Protector, that is, Protector of the Czechs, and we knew that the last German Ambassador in Prague, Dr. Eisenlohr, had often reported that the last Czechoslovak Government for their part had been prepared to effect an "Anschluss" with Germany. He was opposed to the use of military measures, and told me when I came to Prague - I think it was in September, 1939 - that he had expressed himself very strongly against their use, and that he had, together with Goering, visited Hitler in Munich in order to dissuade him from that. In my office I found again and again that von Neurath was very open-handed towards the Czechs, with regard to petitions. He had a lot of sympathy and understanding; he examined each individual case, and that was very well known amongst the Czechs and as we in this office had the possibility of submitting each single request and petition of Czech individuals directly to the highest chief, the Czech petitioners very frequently and gladly used this channel, because the prospects for a positive action on their private requests and petitions through the highest local chief promised to be much more favourable than if they were quickly dealt with by the authorities concerned in the Government. Particularly this practice brought us in conflict with the State Secretary -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, this witness is simply making speeches, you know. You are not asking him any questions at all. He is simply going on -


Q. Witness, what do you know about the personal and official relationship between von Neurath and the State President Hacha?

A. According to my -observations, the personal and official relationship between the Reich Protector and the State President Hacha was excellent, and I believe

[Page 232]

that this was not merely a matter of form, but I had the impression that von Neurath really sincerely liked Hacha because he considered him a very decent and upright man who, under the existing circumstances -

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, when you see your counsel has heard enough of your answer, surely you can stop -

THE WITNESS: Very well.


Q. What was the relationship between von Neurath and the State Secretary attached to him, Frank?

A. Very bad. Herr von Neurath had already told me, when I assumed my office, that he had had considerable difficulties with Frank because of his definite anti-Czech attitude, as a Sudeten German, an attitude which, as a Reich German, one could not easily understand. He had always hoped, however, that Frank, who was not a civil servant, but an outsider, would gradually follow his policy and adapt himself to the civil service staff. But, unfortunately, this was not possible. I do not know when -

Q. Witness, can you describe to us briefly what actually were the relative official powers of Herr von Neurath and Frank?

A. Von Neurath was the superior of the State Secretary. The State Secretary was in charge of the entire internal administration, which was a very large one. Under Secretary of State von Burgsdorff worked under him. Besides being State Secretary, Frank was also the Higher Police and SS Leader.

Q. Now, did Herr von Neurath have a certain influence on this part of Frank's activities, that is to say, in his capacity as Higher SS and Police Leader?

A. Under the existing conditions he had practically no influence. I do not know whether in the beginning the matter had already been legally settled. In practice, however, the police and the State Secretary with his police measures were completely independent of Herr von Neurath. This had some connection with the situation in the Reich, where Himmler, too, was in charge of the entire police and SS, having taken the police powers away from the Ministry of the Interior. As far as I can remember, the matter was legally settled in the autumn of 1939, to the effect that the police were independent, and that Herr von Neurath was to be informed afterwards of all measures taken.

Q. You mean by that the decree regarding the organization of the administration and the German Security Police in the Protectorate, under date of 1st September, 1939?

A. Yes, I think that is the one. The first part referred to the administration and the second part to the police.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I remind you that the wording of this decree is contained in my document book under No. 149.

THE PRESIDENT: It has been submitted as evidence?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes. I merely wanted to remind you that I have presented it.


Q. Was von Neurath at least informed afterwards, in accordance with the instructions, of the police actions which Frank carried out independently?

A. The Chief of the Police was an SS man by the name of Boehme. He used to report to the Reich Protector several times each week. I do not believe that he informed him in advance of intended police actions. We never heard anything like that. Whether he reported such actions afterwards and in their entirety is something which I cannot say. Usually what happened was that the Reich Protector sent to him for comment the various petitions from the next of kin of Czechs who had been arrested, and that Boehme would bring them along when he came to report. That was generally the way the Reich Protector was afterwards informed.

[Page 233]

Q. Well, then, when Herr von Neurath was later on informed of such police measures, no matter in which way, did he make attempts for the suspension of arrests or for any limitation and mitigation of such police measures?

A. As I have already told you, we had set up in the small office of the Reich Protector a special department for the purpose of receiving such applications. This department, which of course was directly under the jurisdiction of the Reich Protector, did everything possible in order to reassure the next of kin and to bring about the release of the detained persons. The work was particularly difficult because these local departments, the local police chief and also State Secretary Frank, usually took a negative attitude. Again and again the Reich Protector would then go directly to Himmler and very often to the Fuehrer himself. I know and remember that there was a very excited correspondence with Himmler and that Herr von Neurath repeatedly complained to the Fuehrer about this.

Q. Witness, can you judge, or can you tell us in how far Herr von Neurath, as Reich Protector, apart from the police and police measures, was free and independent in his political and economic measures and orders, or how far he was dependent on Berlin when giving those?

A. When I came to Prague there were all sorts of other offices beside that of the Reich Protector. For instance, there was a Reich Commissioner for Economy who, so far as I can remember, and as I heard at the time, had already begun to exercise his functions when the office of the Reich Protector had not yet been established. Then there was a plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan and there was the armed forces plenipotentiary who had a large staff. Even the party agencies were not centrally organized. Prague and the north belonged to the Sudetengau under Gauleiter Henlein; the whole of Moravia belonged to the Niederdonau Gau, under Gauleiter Dr. Jury, and the west belonged to a third Gau. All these Gauleiter tried, in turn, on their part -

THE PRESIDENT: Counsel, this is all detail, is it not, and quite unnecessary detail?


Q. Do you know anything about von Neurath's attitude towards numerous plans of Germanising the Czechs?

A. No, I know nothing about that. I only remember that, right at the beginning of the war, Herr von Neurath told me that the whole structure of the Protectorate was regarded by him as a temporary solution and that peace would have to decide the ultimate fate of Czechoslovakia.

Q. Well, then, as you probably remember, in the autumn of 1939, there were the first demonstrations in Prague on the occasion of the Independence Day of Czechoslovakia on 28th October, 1939.

A. Well, I cannot remember the details. There were demonstrations on the Czech national holiday in October. As far as I can remember, they took place on the Wenzel Platz, and the Narodny-ulice. I personally did -

Q. What do you know about new demonstrations, particularly on the part of the students at Prague, when a wounded student died and was buried on 15th November? What do you know about these demonstrations and about the actions taken immediately afterwards?

A. Previous to the second demonstration the instruction was given to exercise restraint. The demonstrations were generally, as I was told later, not particularly alarming. In spite of this, Frank had reported to Berlin about them. At any rate, the Reich Protector and Frank and General Frederici were called to Berlin for a conference with Hitler in the Reich Chancellery. I accompanied the Reich Protector at the time. Chvalkovsky, the Czech Minister in Berlin, was also invited. I was present when Hitler, in a very excited and rude manner, reproached the Minister because of the events, for which he was holding the Czech Government responsible. Whether the closing of universities was discussed on that occasion I cannot remember, nor can I remember having heard him threaten the

[Page 234]

shooting or arrest of students. The manner in which Hitler treated the Minister was most embarrassing to us. The Minister then left the room without saying a single word. As far as I can remember, the subject was then no longer mentioned. We had lunch and, when saying goodbye, Hitler said to Frank that he wanted to talk to him some more.

Herr von Neurath was not asked to stay, and I remember that while walking home with him, he was very angry about it. On the following day, I travelled back with Neurath, Frank having already left the previous night for Prague. I remember that when I came into the office in Prague, I saw a red poster declaring that because of the demonstrations, the shooting of the leaders and the arrest of students and the closing of universities had been ordered; that poster carried Neurath's signature. As I did not know what had happened in Prague in the meantime, I was utterly surprised, because I had heard nothing about these measures in Berlin, and I suspected an intrigue on Frank's part, and went to report the matter to Neurath. I had the impression that Neurath was deeply upset and just as unpleasantly surprised as I was, and that he had known nothing at all about this previously. Soon afterwards, Frank passed through my room going into Neurath's room, carrying that red poster under his arm. I do not know whether Neurath had sent for him or whether he came on his own initiative.

Q. Did Herr von Neurath afterwards, at least after this unfortunate matter had occurred, work for the release of these students who had been arrested?

A. Yes. He immediately used his influence, but he did not even succeed in getting hold of the list of names of those who had been arrested. Only after urging the Czechs for a long time did we receive from the Czech Government an incomplete list of names. In spite of this, von Neurath immediately worked for their release, and he did, in fact, have excellent results in that connection as time went by.

Q. Do you know anything about what was done to accommodate or employ those students who, on account of these demonstrations and the subsequent closing of the universities, had more or less become unemployed?

A. No, I know nothing about that, and I had nothing to do with that matter.

Q. But do you know whether von Neurath repeatedly urged Hitler to reopen the universities?

A. Yes, I remember that Redni, a director of the Czech University, whom I knew well, had approached me once in that direction, and I reported it to Herr von Neurath, and von Neurath again made efforts at the time; but as far as I know, as long as we were in Prague, the universities were not reopened.

Q. Do you remember a Czech Fascist organization Vlajka? I do not know whether I pronounce the name correctly.

A. Yes, I do, but I know very little about it. I only know that we received in the office a number of pledges of loyalty sent to us by members of the movement, and I also know that we had been informed by Czech sources that these people were partly criminal and generally not worth much. Herr von Neurath adopted quite generally the view that this was an internal affair of the Czechs and that after all, these were people who wanted to work together with us. But he, on his part, refused any collaboration, and such letters and pledges were never answered, I believe, by our office. But I know -

Q. Herr von Neurath was also, besides being Reich Protector, President of the Secret Cabinet Council. Did you, since you partly handled his correspondence of a more personal nature, notice that Herr von Neurath ever became active in that capacity?

A. No. As long as I was in Prague, von Neurath was never active in that position. On the contrary, on one occasion he told me that Hitler, when he appointed him, had told him that he should not think that he would ever call a meeting of the Cabinet Council.

Q. Herr von Neurath was also a member of the so-called Defence Council. Did he ever have anything to do in this capacity in Prague?

[Page 235]

A. No, I did not know that he was a member of that council. The fundamental decrees from Berlin concerning the Protectorate were frequently signed by the Ministerial Council for the Defence of the Reich, I believe that was the name, but Neurath never signed or countersigned them.

Q. Herr von Neurath was appointed, as is well known, an honorary Gruppenfuehrer of the SS, and later, honorary Obergruppenfuehrer of the SS. Did Herr von Neurath, when he was in Prague, ever wear that uniform?

A. As a rule, he wore his Reich Minister uniform. A portrait was also once made of him in that uniform. He used to wear civilian clothes a great deal. It may be that he once wore the black uniform of the SS, on the occasion of a parade of the SS, but I do not know for certain now. Otherwise, he never wore it.

Q. Do you know anything about the circumstances and reasons concerning Neurath's departure from Prague in September, 1941?

A. When Herr von Neurath was ordered to come to Headquarters that September, he was accompanied by his military adjutant. I met him at the airfield, and in the car he told me that Hitler had been furious because of the acts of sabotage in the Protectorate, and that he wanted to send Heydrich to do some exemplary punishing. He, Neurath, had stated that he did not want to have anything to do with that, and had asked for his release. Hitler then had ordered that he should first of all go on leave, and so he did. He departed the following day.

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

Mr. President, may I make one request at the end of my case. I have not been able to submit all documents because I haven't yet received all the translations. May I reserve the right to submit the few remaining documents, perhaps at the end of the case of my colleague Dr. Fritz?

THE PRESIDENT: You need not wait for the translation. You can offer the documents in evidence now, put in a list with the numbers.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I have not got them with me, I'm afraid. Perhaps, if I may, I could do so tomorrow or the day after when Dr. Fritz is finished.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

Do any of the defendants' counsel want to ask any questions?

Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, the prosecution, on the same basis as before, does not wish to cross-examine.

My Lord, may I refer to one collection of documents that are in our Document Book 12-B, the collection of the anti-Jewish decrees in the Protectorate. They are all from the Verordnungsblatt for the Protectorate, and the prosecution asks the Tribunal to take judicial notice of them as being an official publication. The collection is merely for convenience and access of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

THE PRESIDENT: Then that closes your case for the present, Dr. Ludinghausen.

The tribunal will now adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

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