The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Day: Wednesday, 24th July, 1946
(Part 6 of 11)


[Page 311]

These assertions of the defendant are confirmed by the statements of the witness von Holleben in the questionnaire answered by him - Document Book V, No. 156 - of the witness Dr. von Burgsdorf, as well as by the defendant's letter to Baroness Ritter - quoted in her affidavit - Document Book I, No. 3. And the defendant has actually succeeded in carrying his point, as shown by Ziemke's report on his conversation with Hitler, submitted by the prosecution.

As long as he was in Prague, no measures were taken to Germanise the Czech people; the defendant even prohibited the discussion of this entire question, as shown by document 3862-PS submitted by the prosecution. By preventing any division of the Protectorate territory and any more or less forcible Germanisation of the Czech nation according to plan, the defendant has proved in a striking manner the sincerity of his aims and endeavours to protect and preserve the Czech nation, its national traits and its national unity and character, and how he remained true to his principles and intentions, as stated publicly in his article reproduced by the Frankfurter Zeitung of 30th March, 1939 - Document Book V, No. 143 - on the New Order in Central Europe, which set forth his line of conduct for the accomplishment of his task. In this article he himself describes his task as a fine one, but at the same time a difficult one. How difficult it really was, now nearly impossible, was seen, unfortunately, only too soon.

Chief among the reasons for this was that from the beginning not only were the full powers in the Protectorate not transferred to the Reich Protector, not only was he not given the sole executive and controlling position, and this in spite of the fact that he was Hitler's immediate subordinate, but also his competences and powers were not sufficiently clearly defined. It is true that Hitler's decree of 16th March, 1939, establishing the Protectorate, and the supplementary decree of 22nd March, 1939, Document Book V, Nos. 144 and 145 - had laid it down that the Reichsprotektor was subordinate to the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor, that he was to be the sole representative of the Fuehrer and the Reich Government and was to receive his directives from the Fuehrer and from the Reich Chancellor. But at the same time not only were certain administrative branches, such as the Wehrmacht, communications, the postal, telegraphic and telephone services, removed from his

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control from the beginning, but the Reich Government, that is, the Reich, had also been given the right to take under its own jurisdiction, as administration of the Reich proper- so-called "reichseigene" - independent of the Reich Protector, those administrative branches which actually were Reich Protector offices, and to establish, if necessary, Reich offices, which did not fall within the Reich Protector's competence: The Reich was also given the right to take measures necessary for maintaining security and order in the Protectorate over the head of the Reich Protector himself. Furthermore - and this is the most important point of all - every one of the many supreme Reich authorities, that is, not only the Reich ministries, but, for instance, the Reichsbank, the Four-year Plan, the Council of Ministers for the Defence of the Reich and others, was given the right to decree laws and organisational measures on its own authority and quite independently of the Reich Protector, and therefore to interfere in those branches of the Reich Protector, without the Reich Protector having either the right or the possibility to protest against or prevent such decrees or measures, should they be in opposition to his own decrees, measures and policy. On the contrary, he was bound not only to publish them in the Protectorate if asked to do so, but also to supervise their execution. Therefore the position of the Reich Protector was, to use an example by way of explanation, by no means the same as that of the British Viceroy in India; it was more like the position - though to outward appearances on a somewhat higher level - of a Reich Regent or the President of a Province. Therefore it was quite different from what had hitherto been understood constitutionally by a protectorate; nor could it be otherwise, because this so-called Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia belonged, according to Article 1 of the above- mentioned decree of 16th March, 1939 - and to this I wish to draw particular attention here - to the territory of the German Reich, that is to say, it was a part of the German Reich. And it only had a certain amount of independent authority, a limited autonomy within the Reich as a part of it, so that the laws and regulations valid in the rest of the Reich territory were introduced into the Protectorate. It was quite obvious that this vague and loosely defined limitation of the powers and competence of the Reich Protector was bound to lead very soon to great difficulties, difficulties not only in the way of a homogeneous policy, homogeneously conceived and directed, but difficulties which prevented the defendant himself, as Reich Protector, from governing in the way he wished and steering the course already taken, difficulties and reverses which became more and more acute in the course of time. In view of all this, it follows that the responsibility of the defendant can only be judged against this background, that is, only by taking into account these various competences of these many other authorities. He can never be held responsible for decrees, measures and actions which he did not decree or order himself, but which were decreed without his co-operation, without his knowledge, even against his will, by authorities or other offices outside his sphere of power and influence - decrees, measures and actions which he had neither the right nor the power to prevent and for which he was at most a medium for circulation.

This is especially relevant for the accusation of joint responsibility brought against him by the Czech prosecution (USSR 60-a) for all the actions of Hitler and of the Reich Government before and after the setting up of the Protectorate. The prosecution takes as basis for its assertions the fact that Herr von Neurath, after having given up his post as Reich Foreign Minister, remained a member of the Reich Cabinet - whereas in fact this is incorrect. I have already proved elsewhere beyond all doubt that he was not a member of the Reich Cabinet, either as a Minister or as President of the Secret Cabinet Council, and still less was he a member of the Reich Cabinet as Reich Protector. That, too, is certain and has never been maintained by the prosecution before this Tribunal. Therewith, any joint responsibility of the defendant for any actions or measures which preceded or prepared the way for the setting up of the Protectorate is disproved. Also I have already proved elsewhere that his statement to the Czechoslovak Ambassador on

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12th March, 1938, which has been used by the prosecution in support of its allegation that this prepared the way, was not false, not deceitful, and was not an action which prepared the way for the entry into Czechoslovakia.

If the Czech prosecution further deduces from Article 5 of the above-mentioned decree of 16th March, 1939, that, as Reich Protector, he was wholly responsible for everything that occurred in the Protectorate during the time he was in office, that is, from 17th March, 1939, to 27th September, 1941, then this conclusion also is wrong and incorrect, in view of the actual position with regard to the division of powers in the Protectorate, as explained above. There is no system of law in the world according to which one can charge a person with criminal responsibility for occurrences and acts by third persons, in which he did not participate or cooperate, or which even occurred against his will.

Thus he cannot be made responsible for the fixing of the rate of exchange between the Reichsmark and the Czech Koruna, because this rate had already been fixed when he took over office; neither had he any hand in fixing it nor had he the power or right to change the rate of exchange; quite apart from the question, which we need not discuss here, of whether, as the prosecution maintains without producing proofs, the rate of exchange really was detrimental to the Czech people or not. Incidentally, I need hardly say that even if this had been the case, it would not be a crime according to the Charter - and only as such would it be punishable.

Nor can he be made responsible for the setting up of the customs union and putting it into practice. This had already been laid down in Article 9 of the decree of 16th March, 1939, which reads:

"The Protectorate belongs to the customs area of the German Reich and is subject to its sovereignty as regards customs."
This regulation was a natural consequence of the fact, which I have already stressed, that the Protectorate was a part of the territory of the German Reich. However, I would like to draw special attention here to the fact that the defendant, because he regarded the absorption of the Protectorate into the customs area, the customs sovereignty of the Reich, as detrimental and harmful to Czech economy, managed to prevent this absorption from becoming operative for a year and a half, until October, 1940, in spite of all the pressure exerted by the Reich Finance Minister, which is clear proof that the defendant put the interests of the Czech people, who had been entrusted to him, above the interests of the German Reich. He had absolutely nothing to do with the economic measures for the alleged transfer of Czech banks and industrial undertakings and the alleged filling of the key positions in them by Germans. Those measures were taken by other offices, especially by the Reichsbank and the Trustee for the Four-Year Plan, behind his back and without his collaboration. These were merely the natural consequence of the fact that already in earlier days a very large amount of German capital had been invested in these banks and undertakings, and this capital increased after the occupation, because the credits given by other countries were withdrawn by them and were now granted by German firms.

Lastly, he had nothing whatever to do with jurisdiction. This was wholly under the control of the Reich Ministry of Justice. This alone set up the German courts including courts martial and the prosecuting authority, this alone appointed judges and prosecutors. Herr von Neurath himself had nothing to do with these appointments and still less with the jurisdiction of the courts, as is clearly shown by the ordinances and decrees which defined it, especially the decree concerning the practice of criminal jurisdiction of April 14th, 1939, Document Book V, No. 147.

Here again I must draw attention to the fact that neither the economic measures nor the setting up of German courts in the Protectorate, which was a part of the German Reich, can even remotely fall under the category of crimes arraigned by this Charter. And this applies equally to the alleged intrusions into the Czech educational system, the appointment of German school inspectors, measures with which the defendant has been charged in the Czech indictment. These measures

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also were not taken by him, but by the German Reich Ministry for Education. And the closing of a larger number of Czech secondary schools was not ordered by the defendant, nor by order of the German Reich Ministry, but by the Czech Government itself, even if it did so on the suggestion of the defendant. This measure turned out to be a useful one and was in the interests of the Czech youth and, therefore, of the Czech intelligentsia and people, because it prevented the formation and growth of a large educated proletariat. After the incorporation of the Sudeten German territory into the German Reich in the autumn of 1938, this danger had become acute, for a very large number of Czech officials and members of the free professions had streamed into the territory of the Protectorate, with the result that because of the overcrowding of all higher professions, which already existed, and the diminution of the Protectorate territory owing to the separation of the Sudeten territory and Slovakia, the chances of finding employment for the pupils leaving the secondary schools were still further diminished. In addition to this came the closing of universities, in the middle of November, 1939, upon personal order of Hitler. The Czech Government could not shut its eyes to the truth of these considerations of the defendant, and itself decreed the closing of quite a number of schools. The defendant did not exercise any pressure on the Czech Government. This has been proven by the evidence.

The dissolution of Czech gymnastic and sports clubs and similar organizations, however, as well as the confiscation and the use of their assets was ordered without knowledge or participation of the defendant, by the police, who were not under his jurisdiction. It is not even certain, by the way, whether this dissolution took place while the defendant was holding office or only after his departure. The dissolution of the Sokol, it must be said, was a real necessity for the Government, in order to protect German interests, and moreover it was a measure which was taken to try to appease and reconcile the Czech nation too, for the Sokol was, beyond doubt, the focusing point of all anti-German efforts and of the incitement of the Czech people toward an active resistance against everything which was German.

The preceding arguments show how manifold were the encroachments of other administrations and offices on the administration of the Protectorate, and, accordingly, the difficulties and resistances which arose against a uniform policy of the defendant. Those were, however, by no means removed but, on the contrary, aggravated by the decree of 1st September, 1939, concerning the organization of administration and the German Security Police - Document Book V, No. 149. This decree was issued, without previous consultation with the defendant, by the Council of Ministers for the Reich defence. Especially in its first part, it is absolutely obscure and misleading. True, it placed all German administration offices and their officials in the Protectorate under the control of the Reich Protector, but this subordination was an administrative one only, i.e., a purely external one, but not at the same time an actual one in view of the administrative duties which they had to perform.

In this respect, things remained unchanged, as had already been indicated from the authority of the supreme Reich offices according to Article 11 of the decree of 16th March, 1939, and of the ordinance of 22nd March, 1939. The difference was only that from now on all administrations and offices established or to be established by other offices were formally attached to the Reich Protector's office and took up their functions under the official title of "The Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia". However, this by no means ensured that such attached departments were put, in fact, under control of the Reich Protector himself, i.e., the defendant, and that they had to receive from him their actual directives and orders and had to work according to his views and his directives. On the contrary, they received their instructions, just as before, from their original Reich offices and had to observe and to obey only these. For instance, the so-called transportation department constituted accordingly under the Reich Protector which dealt with the communication system - already taken out of the Reich Protector's jurisdiction by ordinance of 16th March, 1939 -

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was controlled, just as before, by the Reich Ministry of Communications, and not by the Reich Protector, and had to get instructions not from him but from the Ministry in Berlin. And the same applied to other sectors, also including the purely internal administration.

According to this ordinance of 1st September, 1939, of the Council of Ministers for the Reich defence, and not, as the Czech Indictment erroneously contends, by a decree of the defendant, a new division of the Protectorate territory was undertaken, into Oberlandratsbezirke with an Oberlandrat at their head, which official is, according to paragraph 6 of the ordinance; the competent administrator for all administration branches of the internal administration, and subordinate to the Reich Protector in an administrative sense; as such he was invested with far-reaching authority, and also supervised the Czech authorities in the Protectorate, and this, not by the order of the Reich Protector, but of the concerned Reich Ministry in Berlin. This too was bound to result in very serious differences and oppositions arising from the measures taken by those Oberlandrat according to the directives issued to them by the Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin and from the policy pursued by the defendant. To what extent this latter affected and influenced the Czech administrative offices does not have to be taken into consideration, since this decree too and its result, replacement of the Czech administrators by Reich German officials, is no crime punishable according to the Charter of this Tribunal. This decree, too, is but a result of the fact that the Protectorate belonged to the Reich.

On the other hand, this decree clarified the question of the position of the police within the Protectorate territory, the political as well as the Security Police. This question was quite unsettled until the decree came into force, and from the very first day of his activity had led to differences and difficulties between von Neurath and his State Secretary Frank.

At the time when Hitler charged the defendant with the office of the Reich Protector, he had, according to the defendant's testimony, assured him of far-reaching power, especially for protecting and fully aiding the defendant's policy of conciliation and appeasement as opposed to radical aspirations of the Party and other chauvinistic circles. The defendant deduced from this that, as the representative of the Fuehrer in the Protectorate, he must and would have a decisive influence on the activity of the police also. According to his own testimony he could not visualize at that time that due to the fact that the police had not expressly and from the beginning been subordinated to him, a large part of the sphere of activity accepted by him became illusory from the start. However, due to the fact that Frank - who had been made Higher SS and Police Fuehrer in the Protectorate - was at the same time appointed to the position of State Secretary and as such was subordinate to him, he felt entitled to assume that Hitler s intention was to put the police authority, if not in his own hands, at least under his jurisdiction, i.e., in the hands of his State Secretary. In practice, however, this relation worked out entirely differently, since State Secretary Frank had not the slightest intention of allowing his superior, the defendant, any authority whatsoever over the police, and recognized only the jurisdiction and authority of Himmler his superior as SS and Police Fuehrer or of his Security Reich Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt).

This actual state of affairs was established by law in the decree of 1st September, 1939.

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