The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Herr von Neurath, just before the recess I confronted you
with a quotation from your speech of 29th August, 1937, and
I asked you whether you wished to make any statement.

A. I should think this statement shows exactly the opposite
of what the prosecution is trying to establish. The peaceful
character of my speech could hardly have been brought out in
a more convincing way.

                                                  [Page 124]

Q. The prosecution adduces further, as proof for its
assertion that your whole policy could be summarised as the
breaking of a treaty, the following sentences in a speech
made by you to the Academy for German Law on 30th October,
1937, when you said:

  "In recognition of these elementary facts, the Reich
  Cabinet has always interceded in favour of treating every
  concrete international problem within the scope of
  methods especially suited to it; not to complicate it
  unnecessarily by involvement with other problems; and, as
  long as problems between only two powers are concerned,
  to choose the direct way for an immediate understanding
  between these two powers. We are in a position to state
  that this method has fully proved itself good, not only
  in the German interest, but also in the general

What is your comment on this?

A. First of all this quotation is torn completely from its
context. The entire speech was a presentation of the reasons
why I - that is, Germany's policy - considered the
conclusion of bilateral agreements to work better in the
interests of peace than the so-called collective agreements,
and only from this angle can the passage just quoted be
understood. Therefore, I would ask that you quote the
passage with its context.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: This speech of Herr von Neurath on the
League of Nations and International Law, which he delivered
on 30th October, 1937, before the Academy of German Law,
will be found under No. 128 of my Document Book 4. With the
permission of the Tribunal I should like to quote this
particular passage in its entirety and we shall see that the
passage selected by the prosecution has not the meaning
which it has given it. It says here:

  "I am convinced that the same or similar considerations
  will also arise in other cases where it is intended to
  set up a general structure, such as an absolutely mutual
  system of assistance for a more or less large group of
  States. Such projects, even in favourable cases, namely,
  when intended to be an equal guarantee by all
  participants, will only remain as a piece of paper - "

THE PRESIDENT: Is it not sufficient to refer to the
document? The defendant has just said that the speech
contained the reasons why he considered bilateral rather
than general agreements possible. He said that. The document
appears to confirm that. Could you not refer to the document
without reading the words?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I read it because it was torn from its
context and I believed that I would be permitted to quote
the context as well. However, if the Tribunal wish to read
the matter I shall not continue quoting it.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not seem to me to add to it. It is
just the words which the defendant has quoted the substance

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I omitted one sentence as I thought it
was superfluous. But it may be seen from the context. If the
Tribunal prefers to read the entire speech with reference to
my quotations, then, of course, I shall be satisfied.


Q. Herr von Neurath, the prosecution has submitted Document
L-150, Exhibit USA 65, a note of Mr. Bullitt, who was
American Ambassador in Paris at that time, regarding a
discussion he had with you in May, 1936, and the prosecution
adduced on Page 8 of the English trial brief that as Foreign
Minister you participated in the planning of aggressive war
against Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Will you please comment on this document, which is known to
you, and this accusation which is levelled against you?

A. First the occupation of the Rhineland had naturally
created unrest in the Cabinets and public opinion and among
the signatory Powers of the Treaty of

                                                  [Page 125]

Versailles. This applied especially to France and
Czechoslovakia. Therefore it was essential, if a reasonable
German foreign policy were to be conducted, to allow this
unrest to die down, so as to convince the world that Germany
was not pursuing aggressive plans, but only wanted to
restore full sovereignty in the Reich. The erection of
fortifications was to serve only to lessen the temptation of
our heavily armed neighbours to march at any time they saw
fit into German territory which was unprotected. Despite all
the negotiations and efforts, it had not been possible to
get them to observe the disarmament clause in the Treaty of

As I have already said, France and Czechoslovakia
especially, instead of disarming, continued to arm, and by
concluding agreements with Soviet Russia they increased
their military superiority.

In my discussion with Mr. Bullitt I attempted to bring all
this out when I said that we would not start any further
diplomatic actions for the time being. By making any
military attack more difficult I hoped to get France and
Czechoslovakia to change their policy, which was hostile to
Germany, and to create better relations with both these
countries in the interests of peace. These hopes and views
which I held can be seen clearly in the last part of Mr.
Bullitt's report - and with this Mr. Bullitt was in full

As to the remark about British policy on Page 2, paragraph 2
of this report, Great Britain was trying at that time to
prevent a rapprochement between Germany and Italy with whom
her relations were strained to breaking-point because of the
Abyssinian question.

The Foreign Office thought the rapprochement could be
prevented by making it known that it would no longer oppose
the Anschluss between Germany and Austria. At that time
Mussolini was still entirely opposed to the Anschluss. The
realization of this specious intention on the part of
Britain was one of the motives for the conclusion of the
German-Austrian Agreement of 11th July, 1936. The British
statement which I had hinted at and expected was forthcoming
in November, 1937, on the occasion of the visit of Lord
Halifax to Berlin. Lord Halifax told me at that time - and I
took care to make a note of his statement, which I quote in
English word for word:

  "People in England would never understand why they should
  go to war only because two German countries wish to

But at the same time, the Foreign Office, in a directive to
the British Ambassador in Vienna, the wording of which is
now well known, called upon the Austrian Government to offer
stubborn resistance to the Anschluss, and promised every

The Bullitt report also shows that I said that Hitler's
greatest wish was a real understanding with France. Apart
from that I also told Mr. Bullitt - and he himself states
that right from the beginning - that the German Government
would do everything to prevent an uprising of the National
Socialists in Austria.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I ask the Tribunal to take special
notice of these notes of Mr. Bullitt, which are submitted as
No. 15 in my document book, Page 60, the last sentence, so
that we can save time by not quoting this paragraph. This is
Document Book 1, Neurath Document No. 15, Page 60, last


Q. What was your own personal attitude and opinion about the
policy to be pursued by Germany with reference to

A. Czech policy towards us was always characterised by a
profound mistrust. This was to be explained partly by the
geographical position of the country, between Germany and
Austria, and partly by the diversity of nationalities within
the country. These were swayed by strong feelings. The
country being drawn into the French-Russian military and
friendly alliance did not contribute to the creation of
closer relations between Germany and Czechoslovakia.

As Reich Foreign Minister, I always worked to improve the
political relations. I also tried to strengthen our economic
connections which were of manifest

                                                  [Page 126]

importance. In so doing, I no more thought of using force,
or of military occupation, than I did in our relations with
all the other neighbouring States.

What was your attitude to the Sudeten German question?

A. I have to be a little more explicit in this case.

The Germans living in the Sudetenland as a compact group had
been given the assurance at the peace negotiations in 1919,
when they were attached to the Czechoslovak State, that they
would be given autonomy on the model of the Swiss
Confederation, and as expressly stated by Mr. Lloyd George
in the House of Commons in 1920. The Sudeten German
delegation at that time, as well as Austria, had demanded an
Anschluss with the Reich.

The promise of autonomy was not kept by the Czech
Government. Instead of autonomy, there was a vehement policy
of Czechification. The Germans were forbidden to use their
own German language in the courts, as well as in their
dealings with administrative authorities, etc., under threat
of punishment.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Ludinghausen, cannot the defendant go on
to the time with which we have to deal, namely, 1938, and
tell us what his policy was then, without telling us all
these facts beforehand about 1919?

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I just wanted to show the background
for his later policy. However, if the Tribunal thinks that
this is unnecessary, because it is well known, then I shall
be satisfied with the testimony which has already been


Herr von Neurath, what were your official and personal
relations with Hitler during your time as Foreign Minister?

A. From the personal point of view, I had no close
connection of any kind with Hitler. I did not belong to his
close circle either. In the beginning, I had frequent
discussions with him concerning foreign policy, and, on the
whole, he was open to my arguments. However, in the course
of time, this changed when other organizations, especially
the Party, began to concern themselves with foreign policy,
and came to Hitler with their plans and their ideas. This
applied especially to the so-called Ribbentrop Bureau.
Ribbentrop became more and more a personal adviser of Hitler
in matters of foreign policy and gained more and more
influence. It was often difficult to dissuade Hitler from
proposals which had been submitted to him through these
channels. German foreign policy was to a certain extent
going two different ways. Not only in Berlin, but also in
the offices abroad, the Foreign Office had constantly to
contend with difficulties caused by the working methods and
the sources of information of this Ribbentrop Bureau. I
personally was always opposed to the Party exercising any
influence on foreign policy. I was especially opposed to
Ribbentrop's direct handling of important questions and his
official interference in matters of foreign policy in cases
where they had not been taken out of my control. For that
reason I handed in my resignation several times, and for a
time I succeeded in getting Hitler to dispense with
Ribbentrop's meddlesome methods which he had hitherto

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection, I should like to
submit and have the Tribunal take judicial notice of an
extract from an article in the American newspaper Time,
dated 10th April, 1933, No. 9 of my Document Book 1, Page
44. I should also like to refer -

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not think that mere
newspaper reports or comments are in the nature of evidence.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In addition, I have submitted in the
same Document Book 1, under No. 17, an extract from the well-
known book by Henderson, the former British Ambassador in
Berlin, Failure of a Mission, and I ask the Tribunal to take
judicial notice of it, so that I shall not have to read it,
paying especial attention to paragraph 2, Page 69.

                                                  [Page 127]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal rules that this document - the
article from Time - may be admitted, but it is not necessary
to refer to it.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Thank you. This is Document 9, Mr.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know it is Document 9. I say it may be


Finally, I should like to submit and call the attention of
the Tribunal to Document 16, which is a communication
addressed by defendant von Neurath to Hitler, dated 27th
July, 1936, requesting to be relieved of his post, because
of the intended appointment of Herr von Ribbentrop as State
Secretary. It is not necessary to read this document, but I
should like to call the Tribunal's attention not only to the
contents, but also to the mode of address and the ending.
Hitler is addressed only as "Esteemed Reich Chancellor," and
the ending is, "Yours very respectfully" ("Ihr sehr

I mention this because the prosecution has often made the
accusation that in addressing letters to Hitler flowery
phrases were used which exceeded ordinary courtesy. Herr von
Neurath never used these fine words.

I also call your attention to Document 14, which is to be
found in my Document Book 1. That is also an attempt to
resign, dated 25th October, 1935, and I ask the Tribunal to
take judicial notice of this document as well.


Q. Herr von Neurath, apart from your official policy, were
there not other offices which undertook independent action,
which signed treaties, in which you had no part?

A. Yes. That was the case, for instance, when the so-called
Berlin-Rome-Tokyo policy was under consideration. Hitler
pursued this plan stubbornly, and Ribbentrop supported him.
I rejected this policy, as I considered it harmful, and in
some way fantastic, and I refused to allow my staff to carry
it through. Ribbentrop, therefore, in his capacity as
Ambassador with a special mission, carried on these
negotiations independently, and, on Hitler's instructions,
concluded the so-called Anti-Comintern Pact. Hence this pact
bore Ribbentrop's signature and not my own, even though I
was still Foreign Minister at that time, and in the ordinary
way I would have had to sign it.

Q. We now come to the change in policy. Herr von Neurath,
when did you realize that Hitler's foreign policy plans,
above all the achieving of equal rights for Germany, went
beyond peaceful means, and that the conduct of war and the
use of violence began to be considered as a possibility.

A. I realised it for the first time when I heard Hitler's
speech to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht on 5th
November, 1937, which has been mentioned here frequently,
and at which I was present. The notes on the contents of
this speech, as we have seen from the Hoszbach minutes, were
made from memory five days later, and were extracts from the
speech which lasted two to three hours.

Although the plans set forth by Hitler in that long speech
had no concrete form, and various possibilities were
envisaged, it was quite obvious to me that their whole
tendency was of an aggressive nature. I was extremely upset
at Hitler's speech, because it knocked the bottom out of the
whole foreign policy which I had consistently pursued - the
policy of using only peaceful means. It was evident that I
could not assume responsibility for such a policy.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In connection with this I should like
to refer to the affidavit of Baroness Ritter, already
mentioned by me, which is No. 3 in Document Book 1. From
this affidavit I should like to quote a paragraph under No.
17 of my document book, a paragraph which seems to me to be
so important that I should like to ask the Tribunal to grant
me permission to quote it. It runs as follows:

                                                  [Page 128]

  "When for the first time Herr von Neurath recognized,
  from Hitler's statement on 5th November, 1937, that the
  latter wanted to achieve his political aims by the use of
  force towards the neighbouring States, he was so severely
  shaken that he suffered several heart attacks.
  He discussed this with us in detail on the occasion of
  his visit on New Year's Day, 1938, and we saw that it had
  affected him both physically and spiritually. Above all,
  he was very upset because, meanwhile, Hitler had refused
  to receive him, and in these circumstances he could not
  see how Hitler could be dissuaded from his plans, which
  he severely condemned. He often said, 'It is horrible to
  play the part of Cassandra.' He categorically declared
  that on no account could he support this policy, and
  would take the consequences. He did not falter in this
  decision when on 2nd February, 1938, on the occasion of
  his sixty-fifth birthday, Hitler told him that he could
  not do without him as Foreign Minister. He told us about
  this the same evening in a telephone conversation when we
  sent him birthday greetings."

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