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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Day: Wednesday, 22nd May, 1946
(Part 1 of 11)

[Page 276]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, I think yesterday we got to the stage whether any of the other defendants' counsel wished to ask any questions.

DR. SIEMERS (Counsel for defendant Raeder): Yes, indeed, I believe Dr. von Ludingshausen wishes to examine the witness.



BY DR. VON LUDINGSHAUSEN (Counsel for defendant von Neurath)

Q. Witness, I should like to put a few questions to you about the activity of Herr von Neurath in his capacity of Foreign Minister. You were at that time director of the Political Department of the Foreign Office. How long were you in that position?

A. I believe from late autumn of 1936, in a deputy capacity, and from the spring of 1937, until the spring of 1938, in a full capacity.

Q. But before then you had the opportunity to work with Herr von Neurath, and on an occasion in the year 1932, in the autumn of that year, you attended the same Disarmament Conference at Geneva?

A. Yes.

Q. What tendencies did Herr von Neurath follow, and what attitude did von Neurath adopt at the Disarmament Conference?

A. The attitude of Herr von Neurath was dictated by the Articles of the League of Nations pact which provided for disarmament. He followed those lines.

Q. Thereby he followed the same policy which his predecessors had followed at the Disarmament Conference?

A. It was always the same.

Q. Yes, all the previous governments pursued a policy aimed at peace and unity, that is, understanding; and Herr von Neurath continued to pursue this policy, is not that correct?

A. I never noticed anything to the contrary.

Q. Did you at that time - that is in 1932 - notice in any way that he had National Socialist tendencies, or that he was sympathetic with the National Socialists?

A. I had the impression that there was no common ground between him and National Socialism.

Q. Can you quite briefly summarize Herr von Neurath's trend in respect to foreign politics? Could he have been persuaded, at that time, in favour of a belligerent action or was he the representative, the acknowledged representative of a policy of understanding and peace?

A. I should like to say that Herr von Neurath pursued a policy of peaceful revision, the same policy that had been carried on by his predecessors. His aim was to be a good neighbour with all, without binding himself politically in any special direction. I never noticed any bellicose tendencies in his policies.

Q. Did anything change in Herr von Neurath's political trend in the year 1936, when you became one of his closest collaborators, or did it always remain the same?

A. It was always the same.

[Page 277]

Q. He was especially interested in bringing about an understanding with England, and also with France; is that right?

A. I had the impression that Herr von Neurath wanted to bring about an understanding with all sides.

Q. I should like to put a few more questions to you which more or less concern his relationship with Hitler. According to your knowledge of the circumstances - as his collaborator - can it be said that he had the confidence of Adolf Hitler at all times when he was Foreign Minister, and also that Hitler was absolutely prepared to let himself be advised and led by him?

A. As far as I am in a position to judge, he was the adviser but not the confidant of Hitler.

Q. But there was a certain contact between them; is that not right?

A. I never noticed such a contact.

Q. Did you observe when von Neurath and Hitler met whether they frequently discussed the political situation, what had to be done and what should be done?

A. I can only say that we of the Foreign Office regretted that the contact was not closer; all the more so as Hitler was frequently absent from Berlin. We considered the contact too loose.

Q. Then, one cannot speak of close relations or of close collaboration with Hitler in the case of von Neurath?

A. In my opinion, no.

Q. And in your opinion and according to your observation, how did the activity of von Neurath affect foreign policy? Was he the leading man or was he a retarding element, that is a brake, so to speak, with reference to matters contrary to his convictions?

A. I have no actual proof that important foreign political actions of this period were influenced by von Neurath. But I can well imagine that certain actions in the sphere of foreign politics were prevented

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Wait a minute. I do not think we can allow the witness to imagine. We cannot let him tell us what he can imagine. I think the question is too vague, and not a proper question to ask.


Q. During the time when Herr von Neurath was Foreign Minister, did any agency of the Party also have influence on the foreign policy, an influence contrary to the tendencies of von Neurath, or at least not shared by him?

A. I believe there was not only one agency but many which acted along these lines, and had connections and influence with Hitler, of course.

Q. Do you know why the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan in November, 1935 was not signed by von Neurath but by the then Special Ambassador von Ribbentrop in London?

A. Was not that in 1936?

Q. Yes, that is correct. That was in 1936.

A. I assume for the reason that Hitler always liked to put several persons on certain jobs and to select from among these the one he considered best suited for the crucial assignment.

Q. Was von Neurath at all in agreement with this Anti-Comintern Pact?

A. That I do not know.

Q. What was the personal policy of von Neurath? Did he try to keep old officials in office or did he try to bring in National Socialist officials?

A. Herr von Neurath was very anxious to retain the old and familiar Foreign Office staff as well in the Foreign Office as in positions abroad.

Q. But that changed at the moment when he resigned?

A. Not immediately, but later on to an increasing extent.

[Page 278]

Q. Now, just two more questions. What was the attitude of Herr von Neurath when he was no longer Foreign Minister, and the Sudeten questions became acute in the autumn of 1938, and what was his activity at the Munich conference?

A. I recall a scene in the Reich Chancellery, a day before the Munich Agreement, when Herr von Neurath very strongly recommended pursuing a policy of appeasement and following the suggestion of Mussolini to hold a Four-Power conference.

Q. Do you know that, after von Neurath left the Foreign Office, this office was forbidden to give him any foreign political information?

A. I do believe I recall that the successor of Herr von Neurath reserved for himself the right to inform his predecessor about foreign political matters.

DR. VON LUDINGSHAUSEN: I have no further questions.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW):


Q. Herr von Weizsacker, you were German Ambassador to the Holy See in Rome from the summer of 1943?

A. Yes.

Q. At the same time, the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean theatre was Field Marshal Kesselring?

A. Yes. That is, he was the commander-in-chief in this theatre from 25th September, 1943. Before that time an Italian general had this post.

Q. Were you frequently called upon by Kesselring to settle differences between the German Army on one hand and the local population on the other?

A. There were very frequent contacts between Field Marshal Kesselring and my own office, not only in order to straighten out differences but first of all, to prevent differences.

Q. Did you, through your frequent contacts with Field Marshal Kesselring, gain a personal impression with regard to the attitude of the military -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser. We are not trying here von Kesselring. We are not trying von Kesselring! What relevance has this question got?

DR. LATERNSER: This question is relevant because in the cross-examination of Field Marshal Kesselring the prosecution brought forth incriminating material to the effect that the military leadership in Italy did not observe the usages of war and the laws of humanity. I distinctly remember that you, Mr. President, said, in reply to an objection by Dr. Stahmer, that it was material incriminating the General Staff. I should like to ask the witness now present a few questions about this incriminating material.

THE PRESIDENT: If you wish to ask him anything that he knows about accusations which have been made by the prosecution against Kesselring as a member of the General Staff, then you may do that.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Mr. President. I started with that in mind, and the question I asked was a preparatory one.


Q. Herr von Weizsacker, were the art treasures of Italy in the Italian theatre of war spared and put in safe-keeping?

A. The German Wehrmacht, under the leadership of Field Marshal Kesselring, made the greatest efforts to spare and protect church property and art treasures and success was not wanting.

Q. Can you give us one or two especially outstanding examples in proof of this?

A. Yes, there are a lot of examples. I would like to mention that six months or a year ago an exhibition of manuscripts and other things took place in the Vatican. The German Wehrmacht is to be thanked for the rescue of these objects.

[Page 279]

Q. That is sufficient, Herr von Weizsacker. The high military administration in Italy is accused of treating the Italian population with especial harshness and cruelty. Can you tell us anything that points to the high military administration in Italy having taken certain measures for the feeding of the population at a period of time when the food problem was difficult?

A. Does this question refer, especially to the food problem?

Q. Yes, the food problem in Rome.

A. Well, Rome, in particular was in my field of observation, and I can say that Field Marshal Kesselring told me one day that half of his time was being used up in concerning himself with feeding Rome; and I knew a rather high military official - I believe his name was Seiphart or something like that who with great devotion concerned himself with this problem and carried it through with success.

Q. Now my last question, Herr von Weizsacker. Through your observations of the activities of the high military leaders in Italy you gained a clear picture of these people. Did you get the impression that there was a sincere effort on the part of these military leaders to observe the laws of war and the laws of humanity?

A. That is a matter of course. Perhaps it is not known here that in the autumn of 1943 the Holy See published a communique, an official communique, which especially praised the behaviour of the German soldiers in Rome. Besides the sparing of the Eternal City could not have been realized had the German Wehrmacht not acted in the way it did.

Q. And Kesselring in particular was deserving of merit in that connection?

A. I would say that when the history of this time is being written, at the top of the list of merits will be Pope Pius XII, and, second only to him praise will be accorded the German Wehrmacht under the leadership of von Kesselring.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much. I have no further questions.

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Once it was asserted that the defendant von Papen, who in the summer of 1934 had been appointed special ambassador to Vienna, directed from this office a policy of aggressive expansion, taking in all the South-Eastern States up to Turkey; and that he, among other things, had offered neighbouring States like Hungary and Poland, territory to be gained from the partition of Czechoslovakia. Did this policy actually exist?

A. I'm sorry. I did not quite understand your question.

Q. Did this policy, which I just outlined, actually exist?

A. My observation dates only from the late summer of 1936, for before that time I was abroad. But later I had not noticed that Herr von Papen had carried on a South-Eastern policy from Vienna or that he was charged therewith. The Foreign Office could not charge him with such a mission, for he was not subordinate to the Foreign Office.

Q. And this policy, as I've just outlined, did that exist in the Foreign Office when you assumed your office?

A. Please repeat the question.

Q. Did this policy

A. Which policy?

Q. The aggressive policy of expansion on the part of Germany to the Southeast up to Turkey, the partition of Czechoslovakia, and the cession of parts of Czechoslovakia to Poland and Hungary.

A. Yes, in 1939, no doubt.

Q. Not in 1936?

A. No.

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