The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. By whom and when were you appointed Reich Foreign
Minister, and how did that appointment come about?

A. I was appointed Foreign Minister on 2nd June, 1932, by
President von Hindenburg. As early as 1929, after
Stresemann's death, Hindenburg had wanted to appoint me
Foreign Minister. At that time I refused, because in view of
the party conditions existing in the Reichstag in those days
I saw no possibility for a stable foreign policy. I was not
a member of any of the thirty or so parties,

                                                  [Page 100]

so that I would not have been able to find any kind of
support in the Reichstag of those days.

Hindenburg, however, obtained my promise that I would answer
his call if the Fatherland should find itself in an

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, may I quote the
telegram in which the Foreign Office informed Herr von
Neurath of the fact that the Reich President desired that he
should take a leading position in the Government at that
time. This is a copy of the telegram which was transmitted
to him by telephone, number 6 in my document book:

  "For the Ambassador personally, to be deciphered by
  himself. Berlin, 31st May, 1932."

It was addressed to London.

  "The Reich President requests you, in view of your former
  promise, to take over the Foreign Ministry in the
  presidential cabinet now being formed and which will be
  made up of right-wing personalities free from political
  party allegiance and will be supported not so much by the
  Reichstag as by the authority of the Reich President. The
  Reich President addresses an urgent appeal to you not to
  refuse your services to the Fatherland in this difficult
  hour. Should you not be able to give a favourable answer
  immediately I ask you to return at once!"

It is signed by Bulow, who was at that time the State
Secretary of the Foreign Office.

I also draw your attention to a copy of the letter from the
chief of the political department of the Foreign Office
about Neurath's appointment to the post of Reich Foreign
Minister, a letter which had been written to a friend of
his, Ambassador Ruemelin, at the time. The writer of this
letter, Ministerial Director Dr. Koepke, will confirm the
correctness of the letter in his examination before this
Tribunal - that is to say, the fact that this is the carbon
copy of the original addressed to Ambassador Ruemelin.

I believe, therefore, that at this moment I need not read
the document, which is No. 8 in my document book.


Q. Did you light-heartedly decide to answer von Hindenburg's
call and take over that difficult post, doubly difficult as
it was in those days?

A. No, not at all. I was not the least bit keen about taking
over the post of Foreign Minister at that time. I liked my
post as Ambassador in London, enjoyed good relations there
with the Government and the Royal Family, and I was hoping,
therefore, that I could continue to be of service to both
countries, Great Britain and Germany. However, I could not
simply overlook Hindenburg's appeal, but even then I did not
decide until after I had had a lengthy personal discussion
with him, in which I stated my own aims and ideas regarding
German foreign policy and I assured myself of his support of
a peaceful development and the means of attaining equality
for Germany, the strengthening of her position in the
council of nations and the regaining of sovereignty over
German national territory.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I in this connection refer to the
affidavit of former Ambassador Pruefer, which I have already
cited and which is No. 4 in my document book. I should like
to quote paragraph 7, which refers to the appointment of the
defendant by Hindenburg. In my German text this is Page 27.

  "In the circles of the higher officials of the Foreign
  Office ... it was a well-known fact that when Hindenburg
  appointed Hitler Reich Chancellor he practically attached
  the condition that Neurath should remain in office as
  Foreign Minister. Baron Neurath in no way pushed himself
  into this office when he assumed it in 1932. On the
  contrary, as early as 1929, when Hindenburg asked him to
  accept the ministerial post, he had declined on

                                                  [Page 101]

  the ground that, not being a member of a party and thus
  being without party support, he could not consider
  himself suited to take over a Ministry in a State ruled
  according to the parliamentary principle. It was not
  until 1932, when Reich President von Hindenburg, whom he
  especially revered, formed his first so-called
  presidential cabinet, that Neurath dropped his misgivings
  and entered this cabinet as Foreign Minister."

BY DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: What was your judgement of the
internal political situation at the time?

A. The development of party relations in 1932 had come to
such a head that I was of the opinion that there were only
two possibilities: Either there would have to be some
participation of the National Socialist Party, which had
grown strong in numbers, in the Government; or, should this
demand be turned down, there would be civil war.

The details regarding the formation of the Government in
1933 and Hitler's coming to power have been thoroughly
described by the defendant von Papen.

Q. What was your own judgement of and your attitude towards
Hitler, towards National Socialism in general and National
Socialist ideas and, in particular, towards the Party?

A. I did not know Hitler personally. I despised the methods
of the Party during their struggle for power in the State;
its ideas were not known to me in detail.Some of them,
particularly in the socialistic sphere, seemed good to me;
others I considered revolutionary phenomena which would be
gradually worn away in the manner I had observed during the
German revolution in 1918 and later during the Fascist
revolution in Italy as well. On the whole, however, I was
not in sympathy with them; in any case, in those days I
considered that the decisive role played by Hitler and the
National Socialist Party in German politics and Hitler's
solo leadership of German politics was wrong, and not in the
interest of Germany, especially not in the interest of
German foreign policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: May I in this connection quote another
passage from the aforementioned affidavit of Ambassador
Pruefer, No. 4 in my document book, on Page 28. It is
interesting in so far as Pruefer was an official in the
defendant's Ministry:

  "Baron von Neurath was not a National Socialist. By
  reason of his origin and tradition he was decidedly
  opposed to the National Socialist doctrine, in so far as
  it contained radical and violent principles. This
  aversion, which he did not attempt to conceal, was
  particularly directed towards excesses by branches of the
  Party against people with different views, especially
  against the Jews and persons of partly Jewish ancestry;
  beyond that it was directed against the general
  interference of the National Socialist party in every
  vital expression of the German people and State, in other
  words against the claim to totalitarianism, the Fuehrer
  principle - in short, against dictatorship. During the
  years 1936-1938, when in my capacity as head of the
  budget and personnel section I saw him very frequently,
  Freiherr von Neurath told me and others in my presence in
  unmistakable terms how much the increasingly extreme
  tendency in German internal and foreign policy filled him
  with anxiety and disgust."

Mr. President, may I also ask the Tribunal to take judicial
notice of the questionnaire of Count Schwering Krosigk, the
former Reich Minister of Finance, which is No. 25 in my
document book.


Q. Now, proceeding to your foreign political ideas, thoughts
and principles, what was your attitude towards the Treaty of
Versailles and the League of Nations?

A. It is in the senseless and impossible provisions of the
Versailles Treaty, through which the economic system of the
entire world was brought into a state of disorder, that the
roots of National Socialism and, with it, the causes of the

                                                  [Page 102]

Second World War are to be found. By combining this treaty
with the League of Nations and by making the League of
Nations to a certain extent the guardian of the provisions
of this treaty, its original purpose, namely, that of
creating understanding among the nations and preserving the
peace, became an illusion. To be sure, the Charter allowed
for the possibility of revision. But the League of Nations
assembly made no use of this possibility. After the United
States had withdrawn from participation, and Russia, and
later Japan, also stood outside this so-called League of
Nations, it consisted in the large majority only of a
collection of interested parties desiring to maintain the
status quo; the status quo, to be sure, which had been
created by the Treaty of Versailles. Instead of removing the
tensions which appeared again and again in the course of
time, it was the aim of this assembly not to alter the
existing state of affairs at all. That a great and honour-
loving nation, discriminated against as it was by the
Versailles Treaty, could not put up with this for any length
of time, was something which any farseeing statesman could
recognize, and it was not only in Germany that it was
pointed out again and again that this must lead to an evil
end. But all in Geneva, the playground of eloquent and vain
politicians, were deaf to that argument. It is undeniably an
historic fact that German foreign policy under all
governments preceding Hitler's had aimed at bringing about a
change in the Treaty of Versailles, though exclusively by
peaceful means.

Q. Was this policy also that of Hindenburg or would
Hindenburg perhaps have been disposed to choose another
solution, a solution by violence and war?

A. No, in no case; not even if Germany had had the military
means for that purpose. He told me again and again that a
new war would have to be avoided at all costs.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I draw your
attention to and ask you to take judicial notice of an
extract from a speech made by Count Bernstorff, who was
Germany's representative in the League of Nations, on 25th
September, 1928. It is No. 24 of my Document Book 2. The
translation, however, is not yet available. It will be
submitted, I hope, on Monday. I also refer to and beg you to
take judicial notice of an extract from the speech of former
Reich Chancellor Bruning in Kiel on 19th May, 1931, which is
No. 36 in my Document Book 2. Also to an extract from the
speech made by former Reich Foreign Minister Curtius, the
successor and friend of Reich Chancellor Stresemann, who had
died shortly before, which Curtius made to the League of
Nations Assembly.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I was telling Herr von
Ludinghausen that I have got Volume 2. I do not know if the
Tribunal have the English translation.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not think we have. Sir David, have
the prosecution agreed to the relevancy, the admissibility
of these documents?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, we are not going to make an
objection to short references such as have been made so far.
Your Lordship will appreciate that I have already stated the
position of the prosecution with regard to the Treaty of
Versailles, but as long as it is kept within reasonable
bounds as a matter of introduction, I am not making any
formal objection.

THE PRESIDENT: Herr von Ludinghausen, the Tribunal has ruled
out of evidence a variety of documents which are alleged to
show the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles; as the
prosecution have adopted the attitude which they have, the
Tribunal will regard these as mere historical documents, but
the matter is really irrelevant. The only question is
whether the defendants have attempted to overturn the Treaty
of Versailles by force. We are not concerned with the
justice or injustice.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: No, Mr. President, I did not submit
the document in order to criticise the Versailles Treaty. I
merely wanted to establish

                                                  [Page 103]

the fact that previous governments, too, had pursued with
peaceful means the same aims which my client later pursued
as Reich Foreign Minister, so that, under his direction,
there was no change whatsoever in the nature and aims of
German foreign policy with reference to the Western Powers.
That was the reason, and not criticism as such.

THE PRESIDENT: I know, Dr. von Ludinghausen, but all the
evidence that the defendant has been giving in the last few
minutes was criticism of the injustice of the Treaty of

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, that was his general introduction
but I was only trying to prove the continuity of policy.


Q. What were your own views regarding the continuation of
the foreign policy of the Reich, with reference to the
question which we have just dealt with?

A. It was my view that the solution of the various political
problems could be achieved only by peaceful means and step
by step. Complete equality for Germany in all fields, in the
military field, therefore, as well, and also the restoration
of sovereignty in the entire territory of the Reich and the
elimination of any discrimination were prerequisite
conditions. But to achieve this was primarily the first task
of German foreign policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection I
should once more like to refer you to the affidavit by
Ambassador Pruefer, which is No. 4 in my document book, and
I should like, with the permission of the Tribunal, to quote
from this, in order to support the statements just made by
the defendant, a part of paragraph 12:

  "Neurath's policy was one of international understanding
  and peace. This policy was not inconsistent with the fact
  that Herr von Neurath also strove for a revision of the
  severe provisions of the Versailles Treaty. However, he
  wanted to bring this about exclusively by negotiation and
  in no case by force. All utterances and directives of
  his, which I as his co-worker ever heard or saw, moved in
  this direction. The fact that Baron Neurath considered
  himself a defender of the peace is perhaps best
  illustrated by a statement he made when leaving the
  Foreign Office. He declared at that time to a small group
  of his colleagues that now war could probably no longer
  be avoided. He probably meant by this that now foreign
  policy would be transferred from his hands to those of
  reckless persons."

Q. Herr von Neurath, then you agreed entirely with
Hindenburg in absolutely rejecting any use of force for the
purpose of achieving this objective, the revision of the
Treaty of Versailles, but considered the attainment of this
goal possible by peaceful methods, and were a convinced
opponent of any military steps, which you considered would
be the greatest possible misfortune not only for Germany but
for the entire world?

A. Yes. Germany and the whole world were still in the midst
of the serious economic crisis which had been caused by the
regulations of the Treaty of Versailles. Any new military
steps, therefore, could lead only to a great disaster.

Q. On 2nd June, 1932, a few days after you had entered your
new office as Foreign Minister, the meeting of the so-called
reparations conference began in Lausanne, and you and the
new Reich Chancellor, von Papen, participated. Will you tell
us very briefly what the purpose of that conference was?

A. The reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles,
which had never been definitely fixed, were now formally to
be settled completely, that is, the final sum was to be
decided on. This purpose was accomplished.

Q. At the same time, was not there a meeting of the
Disarmament Conference at Geneva?

A. Yes, at almost the same time.

                                                  [Page 104]

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, in this connection, for
the purpose of general understanding, I should like to point
out that the institution of the Disarmament Conference goes
back to a resolution passed by the League of Nations on 25th
September, 1928, in which the close connection between
international security, that is to say, peace among all the
European States, and the limitation of armament was
emphasized. In this connection, I should like to refer to
the text of the resolution passed by the League of Nations,
which is No. 33 in my document book. That is on Page 90 of
Document Book 2.


Q. Can you give us a brief account of the course of these
disarmament negotiations?

A. Yes; naturally, it is very difficult to give a short
account. The Disarmament Conference had been created by the
League of Nations for the purpose of bringing about the
disarmament of all nations, which was provided for in
Article 8, on the basis of the German disarmament which had
already been carried out by 1927. The negotiations during
this Disarmament Conference were, however, brought to an end
after a short time, despite the objections of the German
representatives. The previous negotiations and this
adjournment made it quite clear, even at that time, that
those States which had not disarmed were not prepared to
carry through their own disarmament in accordance with the
standards and methods applied to Germany's previous
disarmament. This fact made it impossible for Germany to
accept a resolution which had been proposed to the
Disarmament Conference at this time, and the German
representative therefore received instructions to declare
that Germany would not participate in the work of the
Disarmament Conference as long as Germany's equal right to
equal participation in the results of the conference was not

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. von Ludinghausen, shall we adjourn now?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Yes, Mr. President.

(A recess was taken.)

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