Guilty of crimes

In addition to the ambiguity of the Neurath's testimony, there is reason to doubt the fairness of his trial. Heinemann attacks the entire basis that Neurath was being tried on. Highlighting the ineffectiveness of Li dinghausen, he cites the opinion one of the British judges who noted that Neuraths lawyer was 'tall, aristocratic, aloof, insensible to affront… [and] He loses himself in a maze of events, and produces an effect of complete and utter stupefaction". He failed to provide a convincing rebuttal of Maxwell-Fyfe's cross-examination and did not even understand exactly what his role was at the trial.

Crucial evidence, that Heineman believes would have cleared Neurath, was also either ruled inadmissible or ignored by Li?? dinghausen. Having examined the basis on which Neurath was convicted at Nuremberg of 'Crimes against humanity' with regard to the Czechs, it seems sensible to examine Neurath's actual conduct as Reichsprotetkor to see whether his charges were indeed warranted. The indictment stated that by 'accepting and occupying the position of protector of Bohemia and Moravia [he] personally adhered to the aggression against Czechoslovakia".

In fairness, in accepting the position, Neurath had attempted to extract a number of guarantees on how the Czech protectorate was run. According to Hieneman, he asked for the Gestapo and SS to have no authority in the area and explicitly requested there be 'no persecution of the Czechs'. Heineman even implies that his acceptance might be due to some form blackmail by Hitler, who suggested that if he were to appoint someone else, there might well be far more extreme methods used to govern the new protectorate.

Taking this into account, perhaps Neuraths appointment might be seen to be under a form of duress, rather than what the prosecution claimed. His own personal attitude toward Czechs also has some bearing on the charges. Like his testimony there is contradictory evidence as whether Neurath really did attempt to shield the Czechs from the worst crimes of the Nazi's and what he attitude toward the Czechs was in general. At the outset, Neurath stressed to an acquaintance that "only if I am left alone … we will succeed in working out some real co-operation between Czechs and Germans.

From this, we might conclude that what Neurath wanted was reconciliation, not German domination. It appears to confirm what he meant by the word 'assimilation' in his testimony at Nuremberg. Hitler and Goebbels thought that he was not zealous enough in pursuing the Nazi agenda in the Protectorate. Goebbels, commenting in his diary, said that 'Neurath is too soft"11 and Hitler eventually removed him from the position in 1941 when he resisted pressure to introduce tougher measures. Contrary to Maxwell-Fyfe accusations of cultural genocide, some of the correspondence that Neurath produced at time shows him in a better light.

In a letter requesting more effective implementation of German as the first language of the protectorate, he shows respect for the Czech language while stressing that German must be prevalent. "I have no objection if in administrative announcements and the like the Czech language comes first in purely Czech communes. But let there be no doubt that all these communications must be bilingual"12 A telling indicator is that even the most stridently anti-German sources do not show him to be a zealous enforcer of Nazi persecution.

Rather, they see him as powerless to stop the atrocities being carried out under his authority. A book published by the Czech government in exile in 1941, which one might to take such an condemnatory view of the protectorate as to be biased, states that "Even if Von Neurath had desired to execute his office in a human fashion, he would have been prevented from doing so by the secretary of state K. H. Frank… who soon gained a greater influence than that of Von Neurath"13. Nevertheless, the Tusa's contention is that it was not necessary to be a Frank or a Koch to be regarded as a criminal administrator.

Neurath's policies embodied closure of secondary schools and universities, economic take-over, press censorship, introduction of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg law and enforced labour conscription. These measures, as the Tusas suggest, were all quite criminal enough. The Tusas also draw attention to the views of Andrus, who initially saw Neurath as a respectable and ethical old gentleman. He subsequently saw a castle in Monrovia a castle whose dungeons had been restored and where torture instruments had been installed, he was told, at Neurath's instructions14.

This was all quite criminal enough. It is probably true to conclude from this that Neurath did not share the Nazi's idea that Czechs were Slavs and therefore socially inferior to Germans, and was certainly not as hard-line in his treatment of the Czechs as Frank wanted to be or Heydrich subsequently was. But he was still complicit in a criminal regime. The Czechs exploited Neuraths attitude towards them. L. K. Feierabend, in describing how he successfully distracted German attention from a member of the Czech P. U, writes

"I didn't deviate a whit from my assertion that you were innocent and I so perplexed Neurath that though he stick to your immediate departure from the government, he promised me to order that the Gestapo should take no steps against you until he returned from Berlin… so you will have enough time to prepare your escape"15 It is when we compare Neurath with K. H. Frank that we see his attitude toward the Czechs in the best light. Frank was tried, convicted and executed by the Czechs for war crimes. This was a sound conviction. Frank called for and eventually received, in the form of Heydrich, far tougher measures in 'Germanising' Czech lands.

In a letter to Heydrich, he implies support of forced repatriation and Germanisation saying 'if necessary , in case the adults themselves should resist, this should be applied by means of force to their children'16. He was also much more hostile towards Czech culture and language. I quoted Neuraths position above. In a letter to Elias, Frank is much firmer, saying "I have ascertained that the Czech secondary school system of the protectorate is in a thoroughly unhealthy expansion … This is manifestly a social and economic evil which must be eliminated by means of an incisive reform"

Neuraths position at Nuremberg is that he remained in position as Reichsprotektor partly to try and restrain Frank. When being cross-examined by Maxwell-Fyfe, he says 'It was my purpose to remain in office as Reich Protector, then I can only tell you that the purpose… was that Frank wanted to become Reich protector. It is perhaps true that Neurath wanted to Germanise Czechoslovakia, but not entirely stamp out any trace of the Czech way of life, as Frank was determined to do. Certainly it might be a mitigating factor in the charge that he was guilty of crimes against humanity.

On the other hand, why, if Neurath was more conciliatory toward Czechs did he assert his agreement with Franks more far reaching blueprint of Germanistion in the 31st August memoranda's second enclosure. As discussed above, his attempts to disassociate himself from it are not entirely convincing or provable. So, in conclusion, I have attempted to outline the various arguments for and against Neuraths conviction at Nuremberg, based on the question of, firstly, whether he can really be considered in the same vain as his co-defendants, as someone committed to Nazi ideology and the success of the regime in its agenda.

The tribunal put him on the same pedestal with the same charges as everyone . From analysis of Nazi ideology, it appears that Neuraths beliefs, if they are as he stated, are not the same. Goebbels complained that "This man has nothing in common with us … He belongs to an entirely different world". He was probably correct. This cast some doubt on a number of charges. Space has not permitted to look into Neuraths record as foreign minister, but he was indicted a some who 'had deliberately engaged in a nazi conspiracy' for the occupation of Europe seems questionable in the light of fact that he was not a believer in the nazi agenda.

Secondly, I have attempted to closely analyse the main prosecution evidence upon which Neurath was convicted of 'crimes against humanity'- the 31st August memorandum. While Neurath's assertion that he was not attempting to 'destroy' Czechoslovakia but 'incorporate' it is partly corroborated by his record as Protector, his attempts to distance himself from Frank are not. Similarly, we have nothing but his word to go as to whether he was trying to moderate Hitler's ideas about what should be done in Czechoslovakia.

Thirdly, Neuraths acceptance of the Reichprotektor position could be seen as being under some kind of duress, given what Hitler said when he appointed him. This might mitigate the charge that by accepting his position, he was complicit in aggression. In comparison with K. H. Frank though, Neuraths record as protector was not nearly as bad. Is this enough to overturn his conviction? Most likely not. However, moderate Neurath was, what happened in Czechoslovakia cannot be completely divorced from him. The fact he received a comparatively light sentence of fifteen year imprisonment is enough mitigation for his lack of serious nazi beliefs.

He did deserve to go prison for what he did. Regardless of the way he was seeking carry out Germaninsation, the evidence produced by Maxwell-Fyfe shows that at the very least he was seeking to forcibly deport the intelligentsia and this can be counted a war crime, albeit a minor one. He was still an active participant in a criminal regime and his claimed ignorance of concentration camps and the Gestapo seems odd given his position. While he was not in control of these sinister forces, he was the chief official and knew of the crimes being committed.

If he had demonstrated active measures to try and counteract the atrocities that were happening, his prosecution may not have been warranted. He did not and so I cannot escape the notion that he was guilty, admittedly by association. While David Maxwell-Fyfe may have been highlighting a difference in German and British cabinet systems, I feel part of his questioning of Neurath encapsulates my own opinion. [Neurath replied] did you ever hear that every cabinet minister must leave the cabinet if he does not agree with one particular thing? "

"Yes" replied Sir David, 'every cabinet minister for whom I have any respect left a cabinet if it did something of which he morally disapproved.


John L. Hieneman, Hitler's First Foreign minister: Constantin Freiherr von Neurath, Diplomat & Statesman, (University of California Press: Los Angeles, 1979) http://www. nizkor. org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-17/tgmwc-17-161-01. shtml Ann Tusa & John Tusa, The Nuremburg Trial, (Macmillan: London, 1983) Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi ideology (B. T. Batsford: London, 1972) V, Kral, Lesson from History, 2nd edition (Prague, 1962)