The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Then there came the famous dispute between Hitler and the
President of the Czechoslovak Republic, Hacha, in the night
of 14th-15th March, 1939, in

                                                  [Page 137]

Berlin. This conference has already been discussed here. I
do not believe I need to go into it in much detail. Anyhow,
you know of it.

I should like to ask you, did you know of these events as
described, particularly as given in Document 2798-PS?

A. No, I did not know of them. I learned of them only much
later. I only learned here of the notes of Mr. Hewel, but
after I learned of these events, I disapproved strongly, and
I would not have taken office as Reich Protector under any
circumstances if I had known of these things at the time. I
was completely surprised by the events in March, 1939. As I
have already said, I no longer received any foreign
political information beyond what I gathered from the radio
and the newspapers. The preparation for attack on
Czechoslovakia in 1938 I considered to have been eliminated
after the Munich agreement.

I learned of Hacha's visit to Berlin like every other
German, by radio and newspapers the next morning. The
official statement of the taking over of protection of the
remainder of Czechoslovakia seemed not improbable to me
after Slovakia had become independent, and after I learned
that the Czech Foreign Minister, Chvalkowsky, in the course
of the winter 1938-1939 in Berlin, had said that
Czechoslovakia's former policy must be completely changed
and that closer connections would have to be sought with
Germany. However, I was concerned about how the signatory
Powers of Munich would react to this development, which was
in contravention of the agreement which had been reached in
Munich. My first question to Hitler when I went to Vienna at
his request was whether England and France had been informed
beforehand and had given their approval. When he said no,
that that was quite unnecessary and that the Czech
Government itself had asked us to take over the protection,
I immediately realised how dangerous the situation was and
said so to Hitler.

However, at the time I still believed that it had, in fact,
been a free decision of the Czech Government. Hitler's
request that I should take the post of Reich Protector was a
complete surprise to me, the more so when I discovered that
he had taken amiss my spontaneous intervention in September,
1938, which led to the Munich conference. I had misgivings
about taking the office, which I also expressed to Hitler. I
realised that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would, at the
very least, strongly offend the signatory Powers of the
Munich Agreement, even if Hacha had asked for protection
voluntarily, and it was also clear to me that any
aggravation of the situation through bad treatment of the
Czechs would bring about an immediate danger of war. The
patience of England and France must surely be exhausted. I
mentioned this to Hitler, too. Hitler's answer was that that
was precisely the reason why he was asking me to take over
the post - to show that he did not wish to carry on a policy
hostile to Czechoslovakia. I was known generally abroad as a
peaceful and moderate man, and he would give me the most
extensive powers to oppose all excesses, especially by the
Sudeten German element. When I still hesitated and said that
I did not know conditions in Czechoslovakia and that I was
not an administrator, Hitler said that I should try it, that
it could be changed at any time. He gave me two experienced
men who knew the conditions. I did not realize at the time
that it was already a fact that the police and the SS were
not subordinate to any higher authority, and that this would
make it impossible for me to prevent the rule by force of
Himmler and his agencies.

But I cannot refrain from pointing out that great
responsibility for the ensuing developments lies with the
other Powers, especially the signatory Powers of Munich.
Instead of making protests on paper, I had expected that
they would at least recall their ambassadors. Then, perhaps,
the tension might have been increased for the moment, but
the German people would have realised how serious the
situation was, and Hitler would have avoided taking further
aggressive steps and the war could have been prevented.

Q. The charge is made that you took this office so that by
misuse of your humane and diplomatic reputation the
impression could be given to the world

                                                  [Page 138]

that the Czechs were to be treated moderately, while the
contrary was to be the case. Will you comment briefly on
this point?

A. That is absolutely wrong.

Hitler said that I was to attempt to reconcile the Czechs to
the new conditions and to keep from excesses the German
population, which was filled with hatred because of the
years of conflict on the question of nationality and the
measures of suppression which they had suffered.

Q. What assurances did Hitler give you with regard to your

A. He assured me that he would support me in every way and
at all times in my work of settling the national conflicts
justly and winning over the Czechs by a conciliatory and
authoritative policy. In particular, he would protect my
administration from all attacks by political radicals, above
all from the SS and police and Sudeten Germans; I had
pointed out this danger particularly.

Q. Were you convinced at that time that, in making these
assurances of humane treatment for the Czechs, Hitler was
serious and honest?

A. Yes, I definitely had that impression.

Q. Then you believed that he would keep the assurances he
gave you?

A. Yes.

Q. At that time did you know of any plans or even intention
for forcible Germanisation of the Czechs?

A. No, that was completely unknown to me. I would have
considered that such nonsense that I would not have believed
that anyone could have such an idea.

Q. Do you still believe that Hitler's assurances and
intentions expressed at that time were meant honestly, and
that they were only made illusory through further

A. Yes, they were certainly meant honestly at that time.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to
refer to a document in my Document Book 5, under No. 142,
which contains an excerpt from Henderson's Failure of a
Mission. I should like to ask the Tribunal to take judicial
notice of that.


Q. In connection with that period, the conclusion of the
German-Slovak Treaty of March, 1939, concerning the
independence of Slovakia is charged against you by the

Did you have anything at all to do with drawing up this
treaty or with declaring Slovakia autonomous?

A. No. I learned of the declaration of autonomy for
Slovakia, and of all these events, only after they had been
made public.

Q. What were the principles of your programme for your
administration in Prague?

A. It was quite clear to me that reconciliation of the Czech
people with the newly created conditions could be brought
about only gradually, by sparing their national feelings as
far as possible, and without radical measures. Under more
favourable circumstances that would have taken several
generations. I therefore attempted a gradual adjustment and
a diminishing of the previously hostile policies.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: In this connection I should like to
refer to Document 143, in my Document Book 5. This is a
reproduction of an article which Herr von Neurath published
about the aims of his administration in Prague, in the
European Review, at the end of March, 1939. I ask the
Tribunal to take judicial notice of this.

This article shows quite clearly with what intentions and
with what tendencies Herr von Neurath took up his office at
that time. I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of it.


Q What were the conditions which you found in Prague when
you took over your office in April?

                                                  [Page 139]

A. The Czechs were generally disillusioned by the attitude
of their former allies in the autumn of 1938. To a large
extent they seemed ready to be loyal and to co-operate.
However, the influence of anti-Czech and Sudeten German
circles, supported by Himmler and the SS, was considerable.
This influence was personified especially in the Sudeten
leader Karl Hermann Frank, who had been appointed as my
State Secretary at Himmler's instigation. I had the greatest
difficulty with him from the very beginning, because he
represented a completely opposite policy toward the Czechs.

The office of the Reich Protector was still being built up.
The head of the administration was an experienced
administration official, State Secretary von Burgsdorf, who
was examined here. Under him were the various departments,
which were built up directly by the Berlin ministries.

In the provincial administration German "Oberlandraete" were
appointed as supervisory officers for each Czech district.
They were appointed by the Reich Ministry of the Interior.

Q. To whom were the police subordinate?

A. The police force was completely independent of my office.
It was directly under the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of
German Police; that is to say, Himmler.

Himmler appointed my own State Secretary Frank as Higher SS
and Police Chief; he thus had a double position. Under
Frank, in turn, was the Commander of the Security Police.
All police measures were ordered by Frank or directly by
Himmler and the Reich Security Main Office, without a
request for my approval, without my even having been
informed previously. From this fact resulted most of the
difficulties with which I constantly had to struggle in

Q. The treatment of the position of the police is in a
Czechoslovak report, submitted by the prosecution as Exhibit
USSR 60. This puts the matter in a somewhat different light.
Do you adhere to the description which you have just given?

A. Yes, absolutely.

Q. You were informed of police measures only afterwards, but
were not asked for your approval beforehand?

A. Yes, and I was informed afterwards only in a roundabout
way. I frequently learned only from the Czech Government, or
through private persons, of incidents which I was not
informed about by the police even afterwards; then I had to
inquire of Frank.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, I refer in this
connection to the decree of 1st September, 1939, which I
have submitted verbatim as No. 14.9 in my Document Book 5,
and I should like to point out the following: This order is
divided into two completely separate sections. Part 1
concerns the building up of the administration of the Reich
Protector; and Part 2, completely separated therefrom, deals
with the establishment of the German Security Police, which
is directly under the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of German
Police. Already this external form of the order, this
ostentatious separation of the two administration branches,
if I may put it that way, proves that the police and the
police power were only under Himmler or under the Berlin
authorities. This emphasized the fact that the Reich
Protector could exert no influence on them. This is the
great tragedy of Herr von Neurath's activities as Reich
Protector. Matters are charged against him for which he
never could and never did take the responsibility. The
prosecution refers particularly to Paragraph 13 in this
order, which mentions administrative measures according to
which the Reich Protector and the Reichsfuehrer SS, in
agreement with the former, can take the necessary
administrative measures for the maintenance of security and
public order in the Protectorate, even outside of the limits
determined for this purpose.

What does this mean?

A. I do not know what this order means by "administrative
measures." It seems to me to be a very general order,
presumably referring to the issuing of general instructions.
At any rate, as long as I was in Prague, neither I nor the

                                                  [Page 140]

Reichsfuehrer SS made any use of this power. Arrests were
all made without informing me previously, on the basis of
Paragraph 11 of the order which has just been read, and
which does not in any way subordinate the police in the
Protectorate to me.

Q. Did Hitler not assure you, in Vienna, that you were to
have full executive powers in the Protectorate, and that
these would include the police?

A. No; I have already mentioned that this was not the case.

Q. Did you attempt to change this situation and to receive
charge of the police, or at least influence on the police,
from Hitler?

A. Yes. I repeatedly made representations to Hitler in
connection with the recurring violations and excesses of the
police. He promised me that he would investigate these
circumstances, but nothing was changed. The influence of
Himmler, who considered the police throughout the Reich to
be his own domain, was too powerful.

Q. The Czechoslovak report on which the Indictment is based,
in addition to the Police Chief, also holds the Reich
Protector, that is you, until September, 1941, responsible
for the terror acts of the Gestapo. On the basis of the
statements which you have just made, do you assume such
responsibility to any extent?

A. No. I must deny it very emphatically. I have already
explained what the real circumstances were, that I had no
influence whatever.

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: I should like to quote two or three
sentences in this connection from Document 153 in my
Document Book 5, which consist of minutes from the
examination of former State Secretary Frank by the
Czechoslovak delegation on 30th May, 1945. These minutes
from Frank's testimony say:

  "Neither the Reich Protector nor I myself were
  responsible for the actions of the police. The highest
  responsibility was with Heinrich Himmler as chief of the
  German police. The Gestapo received its instructions
  directly from Berlin, either from Himmler himself or from
  the Reich Security Main Office."


Q. By your presence in Prague, could you actually do
anything in practice to modify at least the worst measures
either by the police or the Gestapo, or to minimise the most
severe effects afterwards? Will you please describe how you
intervened and how you attempted to influence Frank in these

A. I received continual requests from President Hacha of the
Czech Government and private persons. My office was for the
most part busy working on these cases. I had every request
presented to me personally, and in all cases in which
intervention was at all justified, I had Frank or the
commander of the Security Police report to me and tried to
influence them in favour of releasing the arrested person.
It was an unnatural struggle with Frank and the police which
was nevertheless successful in many cases. In the course of
time, many hundreds of persons who had been arrested were
released at my instigation. In addition, many sentences were
made less severe as regards postal communication, sending of
food, and so forth.

Q Soon after you took office did you not prevent the arrest
and subjection to so-called atonement measures of the
members of the families, remaining in Prague, of the
ministers Netsenas and Feierabend who had fled abroad?

A. Yes, that is right. Frank had ordered the arrest of the
members of the families of these two ministers. When I
learned about it I induced him to desist from taking this

DR. VON LUDINGHAUSEN: Mr. President, may I make a suggestion
to break off now, because this section is finished and I
come now to individual questions?

(A recess was taken.)

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