§ Mr. Attlee (by Private Notice)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further statement to make on the subject of the arrests in Germany of Dr. Naumann and other Nazis.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
Yes, Sir. In my statement to the House on 28th January on the detention of seven former leading Nazis by the British authorities in Germany I said that the investigation of the evidence was continuing and would take several weeks to complete. The results have now been communicated to the German Federal Chancellor, who has asked that Naumann and his associates be handed over to the German Federal authorities for investigation and prosecution by them in a German court.
I have authorised the High Commissioner to comply with this request and he is, of course, handing over to the German authorities the seized documents and the evidence collected during the investigation.
The German authorities may decide not to prosecute some of the seven men detained, and in that event those not to be prosecuted will be released; but their detention and interrogation, and the impounding of their documents, will have 838 provided valuable evidence for the prosecution of Naumann and his associates.
The matter will now come before the German courts and it would not be proper for me to attempt to foretell their verdict. I think, however, that the decision now taken by Dr. Adenauer and the German Federal Government, which is welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, fully justifies the action taken by the British High Commissioner, on my authority, in detaining these men for interrogation under his special powers.
Our intention from the beginning has been to frustrate a serious potential danger, to bring the facts to light and to enable the German authorities and the German people to form their own judgment upon them. I trust that this purpose will now be served and this important matter should, I think, now be left in the hands of the German Federal Government and the German courts.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that in answer to a supplementary question which I put to him on a previous Question, he said that the German Government had not the same powers as the British authorities to deal with cases like this. Are we to take it, therefore, that the principle has been established that if similar cases to this should arise, the initiative will, first of all, be taken by the High Commissioner?
§ Mr. Eden
What I said to the House, which is true, was, that only the occupying Power has the powers to arrest for examination and interrogation, which is what we did in this case. We have handed over the results of our interrogations to the German authorities, who have now expressed their desire to proceed themselves. To me that seems the just and the right solution of this difficult business.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
This puts rather a different complexion on the situation. Was it not the case that these men were arrested by the High Commissioner under his special powers because they were considered to be engaged in conspiracies calculated to endanger the security of the occupying Forces? If that is the case, can the Foreign Secretary tell us how German courts can possibly deal with such a charge and, if they cannot, 839 will he tell us on what charge they ought to be brought before the German courts?
§ Mr. Eden
The point is that the German Chancellor and the German authorities, having seen the evidence of conspiracy, which is what was originally raised, now wish themselves to proceed against these men. I cannot imagine that there could be a more satisfactory solution, in view of the nature of this information, than that the German authorities themselves should take this step.
§ Mr. Paget
Is it not the fact that these men have been held for a number of weeks incommunicado, denied correspondence with their lawyers, and cross-examined? Has it not up to now been considered wholly contrary to every principle of British justice that criminal charges should be based upon cross-examination conducted after arrest, without a charge being made?
§ Mr. Eden
These steps were taken under the powers which the occupying Powers have, and while still under investigation it would have been prejudicial to that investigation if persons who might have been associated with their activities had been allowed unrestricted access to them. That is why the High Commissioner took the action he did, with my full authority.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I want to understand correctly what the Foreign Minister has said. Do we rightly understand that the investigation has shown that these men were not conspiring against the occupying Forces but were conspiring against the democratic régime in Germany?
§ Mr. Eden
They were conspiring for purposes which, having examined the 840 evidence, the German authorities consider is such as justifies them in bringing charges against these men and trying them. That is the position. Since the German authorities themselves are prepared to bring the charges and to try them, I should have thought the whole House would have regarded this as the best possible solution of this problem.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If I understand the matter rightly, I agree with the Foreign Secretary that this is the best solution. Do we understand that if any future case should arise before the Bonn Agreements come into force we should have to go through the same thing, namely, that the Allied authorities would have to take action before the German Government could prosecute?
§ Mr. Eden
The right hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly good point in that, as I explained originally, at present the German authorities have not the exceptional powers which we enjoy under the existing statutes. It was by using those special powers that we were able to proceed in this way, and we could only proceed in this way as long as those special powers exist.