Monday, 25 March 2013

Von Papen at Nuremberg

This is an abridged version of the testimony given by Franz von Papen to the international war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg.  Papen is one of history's great unknowns, and his testimony is interesting for a number of reasons.

Papen was a second-rate politician, and very probably a second-rate human being.  He was a member of the old German aristocratic élite, the supposed natural rulers of Germany.  His political views were utterly conventional - conservative, nationalist and monarchist.  His political home was the right wing of the Centre Party, the vehicle of the Catholic Church in Germany.  He was far from being a Nazi, but his incompetence and bungled plotting played a key role in bringing the Nazis to power.  Once they were in power, Papen preferred to keep his head down and pursue a second career as a diplomat rather than doing anything to try to remove them.  Nevertheless, the Nuremberg tribunal acquitted him, finding that he was guilty of "political immorality" rather than anything criminal.

The political background

Papen had been Reich Chancellor for a brief period in 1932, leading a government of conservative technocrats which struggled to deal with the immense problems of the Great Depression.  By this time, the Reich Government was dependent on emergency presidential decrees issued by President Paul von Hindenburg, the leader of the conservative establishment.  Nevertheless, an election to the Reichstag was called in July 1932 in order to try to obtain a parliamentary majority for Papen's government and to end rule by decree.  However, this succeeded only in increasing the number of Nazi deputies.  Papen wanted to bring the Nazis into government as junior coalition partners, but Hitler refused to get involved in any government which was not led by him.  The Nazis made mischief by engineering a second election in November 1932 through a vote of no confidence in Papen.  This election produced a similar result to the first.

Papen now resigned from office.  Hindenburg offered Hitler the Chancellorship, but only on condition that he governed as part of a wider Reichstag coalition, rather than ruling through presidential decrees.  Hitler was playing for higher stakes than this and refused.  At this point, the conservative establishment was coming round to the view that the only way forward was to breach the Weimar constitution and impose a new, more authoritarian regime backed by the Army, thus bypassing the Nazi Party altogether.  This is precisely what Papen and Hindenburg decided to do - but a leading army officer and politician, General Kurt von Schleicher, warned that it would lead to civil war.  Hindenburg changed course and appointed Schleicher as Reich Chancellor so that he could pursue a half-arsed plan to split the Nazi Party and bring some of their deputies (led by Hitler's rival Gregor Strasser) into a governing coalition.

Schleicher was a cunning and devious man, but his endeavours failed.  Meanwhile, Papen was still waiting in the wings and hoping for a return to power.  Intrigues among members of the country's élite continued until, on 30 January 1933, Hindenburg finally appointed Hitler as Reich Chancellor - with Papen as Reich Vice Chancellor - and placed his decree-making powers at his disposal.  The conservatives tried to put safeguards in place - in particular, the Nazis were to have only two other Cabinet posts.  As we now know, the Nazis treated these safeguards, along with the other pedantic protocols of German government, with utter contempt and ended up ruling the country through violence and terror.  Much too late, Papen made a speech at Marburg University in June 1934 in which he politely criticised the Hitler regime.  Hitler retaliated by arresting him and shooting a couple of his aides in the Night of the Long Knives.  Papen took the hint, resigned as Vice Chancellor and accepted a post in the diplomatic service.

Comment

Papen's testimony is patently self-serving - he was, after all, on trial for his life - but it throws up some interesting insights into what was going on in the upper echelons of German society in 1932-33.

Fundamentally, the Nazis were seen as a simple political obstacle, not as a mortal threat to civilised governance.  They were a nationalist political party, albeit with some worrying socialist leanings, not a movement of totalitarian revolutionaries.  They were a problem to be dealt with due to the parliamentary arithmetic in the Reichstag.  The old conservative élites of Germany seemed to be unable to believe that Hitler actually meant what he said about what he intended to do if he got into power.  After all, the compromises of office had tamed other radical parties which had got into power, hadn't they?  And the Nazis seemed to have behaved fairly responsibly when they'd got into government in some of the German federal states.  What harm would it do to bring them into government at Reich level, provided there were suitable safeguards?  They would be useful allies for the conservative movement, which was experiencing great difficulty in winning Reichstag seats.

In this context, even the Enabling Act itself could be seen as a mere political manoeuvre - another move on the political chessboard, rather than the death warrant of an entire culture.  Democracy had clearly failed to deal with Germany's problems, and it would do no harm to replace it for a while with a strong government led by responsible, patriotic people, even if it did mean appointing a few Nazis.  As late as June 1934, Papen was still talking about one-party Nazi rule as an emergency transitional stage to a new, constitutionally based system.

The old establishment seemed to have no idea who or what it was dealing with.  Men like Papen and Hindenburg were too arrogant, short-sighted or clueless to realise that their era was over and that they could no longer play at being Bismarcks as if the Kaiser was still on his throne.  Fourteen years later, Papen still seems to have been genuinely shocked at the way in which the Nazis disregarded parliamentary procedure to engineer the vote of no confidence in him after the first election in 1932 while refusing to let him address the Reichstag.  This was not the way that good chaps behaved towards other good chaps.  It was not cricket.

Papen's testimony

[Papen discusses the background to his administration.]

The 8 years in which I belonged to Parliament were filled with struggles for the internal recovery and strengthening of the German Republic. In the Center Party I represented the conservative ideas of my agricultural electors. I endeavored to make this party, which in Prussia had formed a coalition with the Left, form a coalition with the Right also. Thus I wanted to help create an outlet for the tensions out of which National Socialism was really born....

Then in 1930 the great economic world crisis set in embracing victors and vanquished alike. Germany's new democratic regime was not able to cope with such a burden, and under the ever increasing economic pressure and increasing internal tension, the Papen Cabinet was formed in the spring of 1932....

....I must state here emphatically that this Cabinet of 1932 governed, to the best of its knowledge and ability under the Constitution and under the emergency powers of the President, at a time of the most severe internal economic depression....

....Dr. Bruning, my predecessor in office, was highly esteemed by all of us and had been welcomed with great expectations. During his period of office came the great economic crisis, the customs blockades by other countries, with production and trade almost completely at a standstill, with no foreign currency for the procurement of necessary raw materials, increasing unemployment, youth out on the streets, and the economic world depression leading to bankruptcy of the banks.

Government was possible only through emergency decrees; that is, by one-sided legislative acts of the President. Support of the unemployed empties the Treasury, is unproductive, and is no solution. As a result of the wide-spread unemployment, the radical parties were increasing. The political splitting up of the German people reached its height. In the last Reichstag election there were 32 parties.

After the war we had all hoped that we might be able to build up an orderly democracy in Germany. The English democracy was our model, but the Weimar Constitution had given the German people a great number of rights which did not correspond to its political maturity. In 1932 it had long been clear that the Weimar Constitution made the mistake of giving the Government too little authority....

The entire political confusion and the realization that something had to be done in order to make it possible for the Reich Government to govern and to make it more independent, forced Hindenburg to the decision to appoint a Cabinet independent of the parties, directed by experts. The members of this Cabinet of mine were all experts in their fields....

On 26 May 1932 I was on my estate in the Saar. Herr Von Schleicher, the Defense Minister, called me up there and asked me to come to Berlin. On the evening of the 27th I arrived in Berlin. On the 28th I went to see Herr Von Schleicher. Herr Von Schleicher said to me: "There is a Cabinet crisis; we are looking for a Chancellor." He discussed various personalities with me, and finally he said: "The President would like to have you." I was greatly surprised, and said as much. I then asked for time to think it over. On the next day I discussed the matter with my friends. On the 30th I went to see Herr Von Schleicher again. I said to him: "I have decided not to accept." Herr Von Schleicher said: "That won't do you any good, the President wants you under all circumstances." I answered Herr Von Schleicher: "The President probably has a wrong conception of the political forces which I would bring to him for this government; he probably thinks that the Center would support me politically. But that is out of the question."

On the afternoon of this day I went to see the head of the Center Party. I asked him and he said: "Herr Von Papen, do not accept the office; the party would immediately oppose you." I said: "Thank you, that is what I thought."

I then went to see Hindenburg and presented the situation to him. Hindenburg stood up and said: "I did not call you because I wanted the support of any party through you; I called you because I want a cabinet of independent men." Then he reminded me of my duty toward the fatherland. When I continued to contradict him, he said: "You cannot leave me, an old soldier, in the lurch when I need you." I said: "No, under these circumstances I will not leave you in the lurch; I will accept."...

[Papen is appointed Reich Chancellor and the Reichstag is dissolved. Papen seeks to obtain the support of the Nazi Party in a subordinate role.]

....I did not previously discuss the dissolution of the Reichstag with Hitler for the Reichstag was dissolved on 4 June, and I saw Hitler for the first time in my life 5 or 6 days later. The dissolution of the Reichstag, as such, was a matter of course, because the new Government wished to have the opinion of the electors on the new course and on the Government's program....

The central problem which occupied us was the economic one: The big economic crisis, and the 1 1/2 million unemployed young people, the 6 to 7 million completely unemployed, and the 12 to 13 million in part-time employment. Attempts of my predecessors to help with purely State means proved inadequate. They were a burden on finances and had no result. The aim of my Government, therefore, was to employ private economy to solve this problem. We wanted to bring the whole production machinery into working order again. With the investment of 2,200 million marks we wanted to put this process into operation....

Such a program could not have been agreed upon with the parties. The political aim was to achieve, simultaneously with the reorganization of the economy, the practical co-operation of the strongest of the opposition parties, the NSDAP. That was the central problem of German internal policy. It had been shown, through National Socialist Government in Thuringia, in Brunswick, and in Oldenburg, that this attempt could be made without becoming exposed to the danger of revolutionary movements. I could hope, therefore, through a national and social program to find the approval of the Reichstag....

In no country in the world, I believe, was the problem of capital and labor as acute as it was in Germany, as a result of over industrialization and alienation of the soil....

Simultaneously with the social processes in Germany, a new social order had arisen in our great neighboring country, the order of a classless society and the totalitarian state. The democratic powers of the world resisted the exportation of this system. They took protective measures in the economic field, but these protective measures, the "New Deal," and "Ottawa," weakened the German position all the more....

I have already said that I saw Hitler for the first time on 9 or 10 June. The aim of the talk was to determine under what conditions Hitler would be willing to tolerate my Government. My program contained so many points in the social field that an approval of that program by the National Socialists was to be expected. Hitler's condition for such an approval of the Government program was the lifting of the ban on uniforms for the SS; that is, the political equalization of his party with the other parties.

I agreed to that at that time; all the more so as the ban of the SS by the Bruning Government was an obvious injustice. The SS, or rather the SA, had been prohibited; but the uniformed formations of the Socialists and the Communists, that is, the "Rotfront" and the "Reichsbanner," had not been prohibited.

The result of my promise to Hitler was that Hitler obligated himself to tolerate my Government....

[Papen discusses the 1932 Lausanne Conference.]

I ask for permission to go somewhat more into detail about [the Lausanne] conference, because the result was closely connected with the enormous increase of the NSDAP immediately thereafter. This conference had been prepared long beforehand, as is known. It was to abolish reparations.

But I went to Lausanne with many other aims and hopes. The abolition of reparations was, so to speak, a cause jugée. But what was necessary was to remove Germany's moral discomfort, if Europe was to return peacefully to normalcy. This moral dissatisfaction had many causes. Germany had become a "second-rate nation." It had been deprived of important attributes of its sovereignty: No military sovereignty; the Rhineland unprotected; the Corridor, the Saar, and others. I have already described the economic conditions. These economic and political difficulties helped advance political radicalism, and the extremists increased in every election....

At the conclusion of the Lausanne Conference, I told [Ramsay] Macdonald and [Édouard] Herriot, "You must provide me with a foreign political success, for my Government is the last bourgeois government in Germany. After me there will be only extremists of the Right and the Left." But they did not believe me, and I returned from Lausanne with only partial success....

[The Reichstag election of July 1932 approaches. On 20 July, Papen removes the government of the state of Prussia from office, a move widely seen as unconstitutional.]

The condition under which Hindenburg had rescinded the ban on uniforms for the SA was not fulfilled. Election campaigns became more and more radical and therefore I decided to suggest to the Reich President a decree prohibiting demonstrations. Contrary to the decree banning the uniforms, this decree applied to all parties equally. Therefore it did not only prohibit the SA, but all fighting formations of the other parties....

The action [of 20 July 1932 in Prussia] was based on the necessity of restoring orderly conditions. I had received reports about the co-operation of the police department of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior with the Communists.... The Reich Government at Berlin was not an extraterritorial area like Washington, DC, in the United States, but came within the police power of the Prussian State. My own protection, that is, the protection of the Reich Chancellor, lay in the hands of the Prussian police. If, therefore, combinations with the Communists were made in the Prussian Police Ministry, then this affected the security of the Reich Government. This action against the Prussian Government did by no means constitute an action against Socialism as such....

The Prussian Cabinet brought an action against the Reich Government before the Reich Supreme Court at Leipzig; there the matter was properly argued and judgment passed. This sentence upheld entirely the action of the Reich President. It is therefore impossible for the Prosecution to characterize this matter as a Putsch....  [This was not entirely true.  The Supreme Court only partially found in favour of Papen.]

The election of 31 July brought more than a doubling of the Nazi votes, from 6.4 million to 13.7 million votes, or 230 members of the Reichstag as against 110. The conclusions to be drawn from the results of this election were that no majority could be formed, from the extreme right to the Social Democrats, without the NSDAP. With that, the Party had achieved a parliamentary key position. The Prosecution is trying to ascribe the increase of the Nazi vote to the lifting of the ban on uniforms. That is an explanation which is altogether too simple. Actually, the ban on uniforms was lifted from 16 June till 18 July, for 1 month. And already 2 weeks prior to the election I had issued a decree prohibiting demonstrations. The real reason for the increase in the Nazi votes was the desperate economic situation of Germany and the fact of the general disappointment about the lack of foreign political successes at Lausanne....

[Papen tries to bring the Nazis into government in a subordinate position. Hitler refuses and the Nazis engineer a vote of no confidence in the Papen cabinet.]

....I had a long discussion with Hitler on 12 August. I impressed upon him the necessity of his participation, and my own readiness to resign as Chancellor in a few months if the co-operation should prove successful, and after Von Hindenburg had gained confidence in Hitler....

I made an offer to Hitler that he should enter my Cabinet as Vice Chancellor. Hitler declined. On the next day we continued with our negotiations in the presence of the Reich President. Hitler voiced the demand to the Reich President to join the Government with his Movement, but only on condition that he himself be appointed Chancellor....

The Reich President did not believe that he should transfer complete authority to Hitler and rejected his proposal. At this point our efforts of drawing National Socialism into a responsible government activity had failed....

The new Reichstag met according to the Constitution. My Government, as I have already said, could not obtain a majority; but the formation of any other government without Hitler was quite impossible. Therefore, I was justified in the hope that this Reichstag would give my Government time to test itself, especially as I had submitted to it a comprehensive and decisive economic program. But just then something unexpected and unheard-of happened.

The thing that happened was, so to speak, the prostitution of the German Parliament. Herr Goering, the President of the German Reichstag, gave to the Communist delegate, Clara Zetkin, the floor for a vehement attack on my Government. When I, the responsible Chancellor of this Government, asked for the floor in order to give an account of what I wanted to do, I was refused permission to speak, and the Reichstag President asked for a vote on a motion of no confidence brought in by the Communists, the Socialists and the National Socialists. The fact of this concerted motion on the part of the three parties should really show what would have taken place in Germany if these three parties were to have ruled in Germany together, and should also show how imperative it was for me to try not to crowd National Socialism into the leftist wing, but to bring it into my Government instead.

I was forced to put the order for the dissolution of the Reichstag on the table, and to leave....

The reform of the Constitution... was one of the most urgent aims of my Government.... This reform was to include an electoral reform, in order to end the multiplicity of parties, and the creation of an upper House. Above all, it was to give the Government more authority and more opportunities to govern than was possible under the Weimar Constitution....

[Following the vote of no confidence in Papen's government, another election takes place in November 1932. Papen again tries to bring the Nazis into government in a subordinate role.]

Unfortunately, we had to vote once again. The program of my Government was the same as it had been before - that is, the endeavor to establish a new state leadership, a state leadership with the co-operation of an effective parliament with a government vested with strong authority....

I hoped that through this Reichstag election the National Socialists whom I opposed would be weakened in such a way that this party would be squeezed out of the central parliamentary position....

This result was not achieved. The National Socialists lost 34 seats, but that was not sufficient to crowd them out of their key position, for again the formation of a majority in the Reichstag from the Socialists to the extreme Right was possible only with Hitler; without him, no majority.

In order that we might be in a position to continue governing in a constitutional way, I tried once more to negotiate with the various parties and the National Socialists....

First of all, I tried to clear the situation with those parties that were in opposition to my Government, and especially with the Social Democrats and with the Center Party. The Center Party took an adverse position. They desired a majority government with Hitler, but Hitler did not wish to govern with a parliamentary majority....

Since Hitler's collaboration in a coalition government was out of the question, I again turned to Hitler in order to ask him whether he was now ready to enter my Government. I did this out of a sense of responsibility in order to achieve any sort of result at all....

[Papen resigns. Hindenburg offers Hitler the Chancellorship, but only as the head of a coalition government. Hitler refuses.]

The failure of my negotiations with the party leaders and Hitler led to my resignation on 17 November. I was instructed to carry on the affairs of the Government until a new government could be formed....

My resignation gave the Reich President the opportunity to try once more to form a parliamentary majority. He immediately tried to do that and beginning on 18 November he received all the party leaders, from the Right to the Center; and on the 19th he received Hitler. The topic was: How can we form a parliamentary majority government? He instructed Hitler to form a majority government; Hitler would then be Chancellor. On 23 November Goering presented Hitler's answer to Hindenburg; it was: "Hitler could not undertake the formation of a majority government."

On the 24th, Hindenburg received Monsignor Kaas, the leader of the Center Party. He declared that Hitler had not even tried to find out whether a majority government could be formed, but Monsignor Kaas promised the Reich President to try once more to form a majority government. On 25 November he reported to Hindenburg that the attempt had been in vain, that the leader of the Nazi faction, at that time Herr Frick, had stated that the Party would not be interested in such discussions. The result: The formation of a majority government with Hitler is impossible....

[Papen tells Hindenburg that German politics has reached a deadlock and that he must breach the Weimar Constitution. General von Schleicher says that this will lead to civil war, and proposes trying to bring the Nazis into a coalition government by splitting some of their deputies away from Hitler. Schleicher is appointed Chancellor.]

The Field Marshal on 1 December asked General Von Schleicher and me to meet him for a conference.... Herr Von Hindenburg asked us about our attitude; I set forth the following: The attempt to include the Nazi movement into the Presidential Cabinet of Hindenburg had twice failed. Hitler equally refuses to form a majority government. On the other hand, he is exercising a tremendous amount of opposition and is trying to have all my decrees rescinded by the Reichstag. If therefore there is no possibility to form a parliamentary government or to include Hitler in our Government without making him Chancellor, then a state of emergency has arisen which requires extraordinary measures. Therefore, I proposed a recess of Parliament for several months and immediate preparation of a constitutional reform bill later to be presented to the Reichstag or to a national assembly. This proposal involved a violation of the Constitution.

I emphasized that I knew how the great soldier and statesman cherished the sacredness of his oath, but my conscience led me to believe that a violation of the Constitution seemed to be justified in view of the extraordinary situation, for which the German Constitution provided no remedy.

Then Herr Von Schleicher spoke. He said: "Field Marshal, I have a plan which will make it unnecessary for you to break your oath to the Constitution, if you are willing to put the Government into my hands. I hope that I will be able to obtain a parliamentary majority in the Reichstag by splitting the National Socialist Party."

During the discussion of this plan, I said that it was doubtful to me whether a splitting of the Party which had sworn loyalty to Hitler could be achieved. I reminded the Field Marshal of the fact that he should free himself of weak parliamentary majorities through a basic reform. However, the proposals were thrown overboard through the solution offered by Schleicher. The solution offered by Schleicher was only a provisional matter, and a very doubtful one....

The decision of the Field Marshal was perhaps the most difficult that he had to make in his long life. Without giving any further reasons, he told me: "I have decided in favor of the solution of Herr Von Papen, and I request you to start immediately negotiations for the formation of a government to which I can give the instructions in accordance with your proposals." The conference was over....

Then, the same evening, I started discussions with several ministers with regard to the formation of a new government. These ministers told me, "The plan is excellent, but Herr Von Schleicher has told us that we will have a civil war and in that case the Reichswehr will not be in a position to keep law and order in the country."

I interrupted the discussion and called the Cabinet together the next morning, presenting the situation and informing them of Hindenburg's decision. Then I asked Herr Von Schleicher to tell the Cabinet now why he believed that there would be a civil war and why the Reichswehr would not be in a position to keep law and order in the country. Herr Von Schleicher called on one of his General Staff officers to tell the Cabinet that this case had been considered from a practical and theoretical point of view and that they had come to the decision that the Reichswehr and the police were not in a position to keep law and order in the country. Then I said to the gentlemen: "This is a new situation which I have to report to the Reich President."

I went to Hindenburg and reported to him. Herr Von Hindenburg, deeply stirred about my report, said to me, "I am an old man and I cannot face a civil war of any sort in my country. If Herr Von Schleicher is of this opinion, then I must - as much as I regret - withdraw the task with which I charged you last night." With that, Herr Von Schleicher was appointed Chancellor on the conditions which he had offered to the Reich President at this meeting....

[January 1933. Negotiations among the parties continue, but Schleicher gives up trying to form a Reichstag majority. Schleicher now asks Hindenburg to breach the Weimar Constitution. Hindenburg refuses, and agrees to appoint Hitler as Chancellor subject to certain safeguards.]

Then on 15 January, the well-known elections in Lippe took place. The Lippe elections gave the National Socialists a new impetus....

The State Secretary of the Reich Government, Schleicher, declared in this connection: "The Reich Government intends to clarify the political situation as quickly as possible, but the Reich Government is not interested in majority questions."

From that can be seen that Herr Von Schleicher no longer considered the formation of a government on the basis of a majority....

The political situation, as we shall see, left the Reich President only the choice between a violation of the Constitution and a Hitler Cabinet.

Furthermore... during the entire month of January until the 22nd almost daily negotiations without my participation took place between the Reich Government and the various parties or among the parties themselves. All of these negotiations were concerned with the possible formation of a majority in the Reichstag, but all of them were of no avail. I have explained that the Reich Chancellor, Von Schleicher, was trying to bring about a majority in the Reichstag by splitting the [Nazi] Party. This attempt, too, finally failed on 20 January; and that was obvious to the world, for on that day the Reich Chancellor authorized a statement in the Reichstag to the effect that he no longer attached importance to forming a majority in the Reichstag....

After his efforts to split the [Nazi] Party and to bring about a majority in the Reichstag had failed, Reich Chancellor Von Schleicher asked the Reich President to give him dictatorial powers, which meant a violation of the Constitution. Thus he wanted the very thing which I had proposed to the Reich President on 1 December 1932 as the only way out of the situation, a proposal which the Reich President had accepted at that time but which General Von Schleicher had thwarted....

The idea of forming a parliamentary majority government had been abandoned since 20 January; it was impossible. Hitler was not willing to lead or participate in such a government.

Secondly, further support of the Schleicher presidential cabinet by means of a declaration of a state of emergency and the prorogation of the Reichstag, which was against the Constitution, had been rejected by the Reich President on the 23rd. He had rejected these proposals, as we know, because Von Schleicher had told him in December that a violation of the Constitution would mean civil sitar and a civil war would mean chaos, "because I am not in a position," he said, "to maintain law and order with the Army and with the Police."

Thirdly, since Hitler offered to participate in a presidential cabinet, this was the only remaining possibility, and all the forces and political parties which had supported my Government in 1932 were available for this....

The instructions given me by Von Hindenburg were as follows: Proposal for the formation of a government under the leadership of Hitler, with the utmost restriction of National Socialist influence and within the framework of the Constitution.

I should like to add that it was quite unusual for the Reich President to ask any person to form a government which would not be headed by the person himself. In the normal course of events Hindenburg should, of course, have entrusted Hitler himself with the formation of a government; and he entrusted me with this task because he wished to minimize Hitler's influence in the government as far as possible....

I negotiated with the leaders of the rightist groups which might participate in the formation of this government; namely, the NSDAP, the German National People's Party, the "Stahlhelm," and the German People's Party....

The safeguarding measures which I introduced at the request of the Reich President were the following: 1) A very small number of National Socialist ministers in the new cabinet; only 3 out of 11, including Hitler. 2) The decisive economic departments of the cabinet to be placed in the hands of non-National Socialists. 3) Experts to be put into the ministry posts as far as possible. 4) Joint reports of Reich Chancellor Hitler and Vice Chancellor Von Papen to Hindenburg in order to minimize the personal influence of Hitler on Hindenburg. 5) I tried to form a parliamentary bloc as a counterbalance against the political effects of the National Socialist Party....

The Reich President reserved the right to appoint the Foreign Minister and the Reichswehr Minister. The first of these two key posts was given to Herr Von Neurath, in whom the President had special confidence; and the Reich Defense Ministry was given to General Von Blomberg, who also enjoyed the particular confidence of the Reich President. The National Socialist members of this cabinet were only the Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick, whose activity as Minister of the Interior for the State of Thuringia had been completely moderate, and the Minister without Portfolio, and later Prussian Minister of the Interior, Goering....

The program which on 30 January we decided to adopt was not the program of the Nazi Party, but it was a coalition program....

....[T]his coalition program, which the Prosecution describes as the Nazi program, contained the following points: Continued existence of the Lander and the federal character of the Reich; protection of justice and the legal system, permanent tenure of office for judges; reform of the Constitution; safeguarding of the 'rights of the Christian churches; and, above all, abolition of the class conflict through a solution of social problems, the restoration of a true national community'....

I did everything within my power, together with my political friends, to carry through the ideas which I myself had contributed to this political program. At that time the essential point seemed to me the creation of a counterbalance to National Socialism; and therefore, I asked the leaders of the rightist parties to give up the old party programs and to unite in a large, common political organization with the aim of fighting for the principles which we had enunciated. However, the party leaders did not act on this suggestion. Party differences were too marked and no changes took place. The only thing I accomplished was the establishment of a voting bloc of all three parties, and on behalf of this voting bloc I made many speeches in which I presented this program, this coalition program, to the country....

[The Weimar Republic's last free election is held in March 1933. The new Reichstag passes the Enabling Act.]

I, personally, had expected that the NSDAP would be successful at the polls. In November 1932 I had taken away 36 of its seats in the Reichstag, and I expected that it would regain some of those seats. I had also hoped that my own voting bloc would be very successful. I hoped that the people would realize the necessity of creating a counterbalance. However, this did not happen....

The Enabling Act arose out of the necessity to have the economic measures carried out in an untroubled Reichstag session. Negotiations were conducted with the Center Party to obtain a 1-year parliamentary truce, but these negotiations failed. Hence this law which had some parallels in the past became a necessity. The Prosecution has emphasized this law as clear proof for the existence of a conspiracy. May I say, therefore, that I myself tried to provide for a certain check by desiring to maintain the veto power of the Reich President. The Cabinet records of 15 March show, however, that State Secretary Meissner did not consider the participation of the Reich President necessary....

The exclusion of parties was a necessary result of the Enabling Act. For 4 years Hitler had demanded the reforms which we wanted to make. Document 25 shows that I asked Hitler to create a new basic State law, and, in his speech of 23 March Hitler promised that. In that speech he spoke of a reform of the Constitution to be carried through by the appropriate existing constitutional organs. That reform would have given us, in my opinion, in a revolutionary way, a new and sounder democratic and parliamentary form of government. Moreover, I must say that I saw no danger in the temporary use of the one-party system. There were excellent examples for it in other states, for instance in Turkey and Portugal, where this one-party system was functioning very well. Finally, I should like to point out that in my speech at Marburg on 17 June 1934 I criticized this development and said that one could only regard it as a transitional stage which a reconstructed Constitution would have to terminate....

[Papen talks about antisemitism.]

My attitude toward the Jewish problem can be briefly delineated; it has always, throughout my life, been the attitude expected by the Catholic Church of its members. I stated my view on the question of race, as regards National Socialist doctrine, quite publicly in a speech in Gleiwitz in the year 1933, and my counsel will submit that speech as evidence.

A completely different question not connected with my basic attitude toward the Jewish problem was, however, the kind of foreign monopoly, the overwhelming influence of the Jewish element in the spheres which form the nation's public opinion, such as press, literature, theater, film, and especially law. There seemed no doubt in my mind that this foreign monopoly was unhealthy and that it should be remedied in some way. But as I said, that had nothing whatever to do with the racial question....

[Papen talks about Nazism generally.]

The Prosecution makes its task very easy: In view of the criminal end of National Socialism, it shifts all blame to the initial years of development and brands as criminals all those who, out of pure motives, attempted to give the Movement a constructive and creative character. But here in this book of 1936 a churchman of high rank lifts his voice in an attempt, made on his own initiative, to bring about an improvement of conditions. Today we know that all such attempts failed and that a world crumbled in ruins. But is it right, on that account, to accuse millions of people of crimes because they tried to attain something good in those days?

[The British prosecuting counsel cross-examines Papen.]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Defendant, do you remember saying in your interrogation on 19 September of last year that your present view was that Hitler was the greatest crook that you had ever seen in your life?

VON PAPEN: That is quite true. That is the opinion which I arrived at after I learned here of all the crimes.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, that was on 19 September 1945.... Was not that rather a long time for you to discover that somewhat obvious truth after your close co-operation with Hitler?

VON PAPEN: My opinion about Hitler and his inner political significance was completely clear after 30 June 1934....  [This was the date of the Night of the Long Knives.]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well now, just let us see whether you had not had an opportunity of forming that view much earlier. When you were Reich Chancellor in 1932 it was necessary for you to acquaint yourself with the personalities and aims and methods of the Nazi Party, was it not?... And you remember... that on 16 November 1932 Hitler wrote to you and said: "You must be aware of my attitude and the attitude of my Party."

VON PAPEN: Of course, I knew the aims of his Party; but I may add, if a party forms a coalition with another party it has to eliminate a great deal from its program and form a coalition program. That was what Hitler did on 30 January.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE:....You had very little doubt in 1932, during the period of your Chancellorship, that if Hitler got into power Germany was in danger of being ruled by violent and unconstitutional methods, had you not, if Hitler got into power?

VON PAPEN: Doubtless the program of the National Socialists was revolutionary in this connection, but I explained in detail to the Court that when we came to this forced solution of 30 January we established a number of safeguards and drew up a joint coalition program which in our opinion eliminated the points of danger which you have mentioned.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: It was very strongly the view of President Von Hindenburg in the middle of 1932 that it would be most dangerous to put power into Hitler's hands, was it not?

VON PAPEN: Yes, that was indeed his opinion, that Hitler had to be controlled by restricting his power....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And you know, Defendant - I am not talking about a coalition, I am talking about if the National Socialists came into power themselves - it was obvious to you that they had few scruples and would make short work of their political opponents, is that not so?

VON PAPEN: One cannot say that. In political life it always happens that a radical party - any party, but particularly a radical party - if it comes to power and is made responsible, has to eliminate much of its program. For example, we have seen that in the case of the socialist parties of all countries....

I had asked Hitler twice to join my own Government, and, when at the end of January 1933 there was no other way out, I formed a coalition at Hindenburg's request with the National Socialist Party.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, did you believe at that time that Hitler was absolutely necessary for Germany?

VON PAPEN: I was of the opinion that a man who in March 1932, before I was in the Government, had 36.8 percent of all German votes in the presidential election, that that man and his party had to be included in responsible government work.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: But beyond his electoral success, did you think that Hitler, from his personality, aims, and program, was essential for Germany at that time?

VON PAPEN: I do not know how a party which controlled 36.8 percent of all German votes could be dealt with by means of the police.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Look at your own words in the next paragraph of that letter. You do not seem to refer to merely electoral success:

"The dear Lord has blessed Germany by giving it in times of deep distress a leader who will lead it through all crises and moments of danger, with the assured instinct of the statesman, into a happy future."

That was, shall we say - we will not say extravagant - but rather strong language for an ex-cavalry officer to use of a political figure if he did not think, or if he did not want other people to think, that he firmly believed in him. Did you really mean what you are saying there?

VON PAPEN: May I say the following in answer? After I had formed the coalition with Hitler, I was convinced that he would keep this pact of coalition, and repeatedly - not only in this speech - I professed my allegiance to Hitler and to our joint program, and I have already told the Court why I took his part precisely in this speech. This was a question of stating before the whole world that Hitler's solemn promise to keep peace was a serious promise to which we all subscribed....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I think you said, Defendant - you put it that you had two meetings with President Von Hindenburg and then, I think, after 18 January you had meetings with Hitler, and after 22 January you had meetings with the Defendant Goering, as he said in his evidence, is that not so?

VON PAPEN: No, I did not meet with Hitler from 4 January until 22 January.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: We will call it about 4 days, the dates of the Nazi Party say that you began negotiations on the 18th, but we will not quarrel about a day or two. The crucial meeting was the meeting which was arranged with Oskar von Hindenburg at the Defendant Von Ribbentrop's house, was it not?

VON PAPEN: It was a preliminary talk; it was at any rate the first contact with the National Socialists, with Hitler, and with Goering....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And thereafter, the decision was come to that Hitler would become Chancellor in the new Government and that he would bring into the Government the Defendant Frick as Minister of the Interior, and the Defendant Goering as Minister without Portfolio, and he himself would head the Government as Chancellor?

VON PAPEN: No; on the 22nd, we did not reach any agreement as to this; rather we limited ourselves to....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I said only within a few days that had been agreed between you, had it not?

VON PAPEN: Yes, but it is very important to establish - forgive me if I add this - that we did not begin these talks until after it was certain that Herr Von Schleicher could not form a government, after the attempt to split the Nazi Party had failed. That is very important.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, are you telling the Tribunal that at this time you did what you have agreed you have done to bring Hitler into power, simply because he was head of the biggest party in the Reichstag, or because you thought he was the most suitable man to be Chancellor of Germany at that date; which was your motive?

VON PAPEN: My motive, Mr. Prosecutor, was very simple. In the situation existing after 23 January, there were only two possibilities, either to violate the Constitution, which would result in civil war, or to form a government headed by Hitler. I believe I explained that in great detail to the Court.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What I really want to know, Defendant, is that at this time you had had these contacts with Hitler. You have been Chancellor of Germany yourself. At this time did you think that Hitler personally, and Hitler's aims and intentions and personality, were a good thing for Germany to have as Chancellor? It is a perfectly simple question. I want a straight answer. Did you think it was a good thing to have Hitler, as you knew him then, as Chancellor of Germany?

VON PAPEN: To that I can say only that the coalition which I formed on behalf of the Reich President was a forced solution. There was no question of whether it was better or worse. We had to accept it.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, now, just let us see. I think you said that you were not certain that Hitler would eliminate opposition before he came into power. How long did it take you, after Hitler became Chancellor, to find out that his desire was to eliminate all opposition?

VON PAPEN: I realized that finally when I made the last attempt in my Marburg speech to hold him to the joint program, and when this attempt failed....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, now, apart from individuals, did you not know that within a few months of Hitler's becoming Chancellor, hundreds, if not thousands, of Social Democrats and Communists went into a concentration camp?

VON PAPEN: Thousands?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE Well, let us say hundreds, if you like. That is the figure Defendant Goering agreed to, so let us take, as the inside figure, hundreds of Social Democrats and Communists. Minister Severing put it at 1,500 of each; did you not know that?

VON PAPEN: I recall very exactly that the Defendant Goering came to the Cabinet one day after he had had the headquarters of the Communist Party, the Liebknecht Haus, taken over by the Police. He told the Cabinet that he had found a great number of documents which showed to what extent the Communists and other elements were trying to disturb public order and overthrow the new Government.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now will you answer my questions. Did you not know that hundreds of Social Democrats and Communists had been put in concentration camps?

VON PAPEN: No, I did not know there were hundreds. I knew that individual leaders had been thrown into concentration camps....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, you knew these things. Well, in your speech at Essen, let us just look at it again; your own account of what you have done.... You just told me that it was true what you said in that speech - this was in November - that you had tried to support with all your strength the work of the National Socialist movement and its leader and, if you will notice, you say later on that you were "selected by a gracious fate to put the hand of our Chancellor and Fuehrer into the hand of our beloved Field Marshal." By November 1933 you must have had a very good idea about the way that Hitler, your Chancellor and Fuehrer, was dealing with those who were politically opposed to him. Why were you - you told us your point of view - why were you saying how proud you were to have supported with all your strength the work of the National Socialist Party unless you agreed with it?

VON PAPEN: Hitler's and the Party's acts in violation of the coalition policy we opposed to the best of our power within the Cabinet. Certainly, we knew of these violations. I, personally, in many speeches which have not been submitted to the Court, referred to these violations, but as long as this coalition pact was in existence I had to hope that we would put our views through, and only for this reason did I therefore assure Hitler of my loyalty so that he, on his part, would be loyal to the others of us.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I just give you the last words. Here you are appealing in a careful and special appeal to your Catholic fellow citizens, and you say:

"Let us in this hour say to the Fuehrer and the new Germany that we believe in him and his work."

Why did you talk like that when you must have known, in November 1933, that his program was to smash opposition, smash his political opponents, smash the trade unions and put himself in complete control of Germany? Why were you making speeches like that unless you believed and agreed with everything Hitler wanted to do?

VON PAPEN: I will tell you that very precisely. You know that in July of that year I concluded the Concordat [with the Vatican], and that I received Hitler's assurance that he would make religious peace the basis of his policy. The more conservative elements could be brought to back the Government, so much the better it would be for the fulfillment of my program....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, in all - it does not matter about the names - there were two members of your staff who were shot, and three were arrested [in the Night of the Long Knives], were they not?

VON PAPEN: One member of my staff was shot, and two were arrested. Herr Jung was not a member of my staff.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Herr Jung was not a member of your staff, but he was a close associate of yours. Now...

VON PAPEN: He was an associate who, as I said, quite often assisted me, when I was very busy, by drafting outlines for speeches, and with whom I exchanged conservative ideas.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And, of course, it is common knowledge that General Von Schleicher and his wife were also shot, and - I think my recollection is right-that General Von Bredow was shot too, was he not?

VON PAPEN: Yes.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And you were placed under arrest, as you have told us, for 3 days, and I think your files were taken, were they not?

VON PAPEN: Yes.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE Did this performance shake your faith in the regime? ~

VON PAPEN: My faith in what? I beg your pardon.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Did this performance shake your faith in the regime and in Hitler?

VON PAPEN: Quite. I explained to the Tribunal yesterday that by this action the Pact of 30 January had been broken.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And you offered your resignation on 2 July, I think.

VON PAPEN: No, I offered it even earlier.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You had already offered it on 18 or 19 June, and you reaffirmed your offer on 2 July.

VON PAPEN: Quite right.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Quite right; my mistake. Now, do you tell the Tribunal that you reaffirmed your offer of resignation because you had lost your faith in the regime, or because of the insult to your own pride, because of your being arrested and having your files taken and your secretaries shot?

VON PAPEN: I offered my resignation, first, because of the unbearable affront to my own person and my staff and, secondly, because by this action the Pact of 30 January had been broken by Hitler and because any political co-operation with him in domestic matters had become impossible for me....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Did it not come to this, Defendant, that so long as you could get your dignity cleared it did not matter whether your collaborators were shot or the Government of which you had been a member had adopted murder as an instrument of policy? These things did not matter to you so long as you kept your own dignity and the chance of a future job in the Foreign Service.

VON PAPEN: No.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, why did you write stuff like that to the head of a gang of murderers who had murdered your collaborators? Why did you write to him:

"The crushing of the revolt, your courageous and firm personal intervention have met with nothing but recognition throughout the entire world."

Why did you write it?

VON PAPEN: Because at that time it was my opinion that there actually had been a revolution and that Hitler had crushed it. That on the other hand numerous people had been murdered, members of my own office staff, that was something about which Hitler was to ascertain the truth.

When he told me that he himself would assume responsibility, I considered this an excellent act on his part, though not, as it was actually done afterwards by Hitler, when he stated to the Reichstag that these events were proper. I understood it to mean that if he himself assumed responsibility for these events he would clarify them to the world and not state to the world in a law without any investigation that they were proper....

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Herr Von Papen, if you, as an ex-Chancellor of the Reich and, as you said yourself, one of the leading Catholic laymen of Germany, an ex-officer of the Imperial Army, had said at that time "I am not going to be associated with murder, cold-blooded murder as an instrument of policy," you might at some risk to yourself have brought down the whole of this rotten regime, might you not?

VON PAPEN: That is possible, but had I said it publicly, then quite probably I would have disappeared somewhere just as my associates did. And, apart from that, the world knew from my resignation that I did not identify myself with this affair....

I have already told you and the Tribunal that I hoped that, in spite of the collapse of the domestic situation, Hitler would at least in the field of foreign policy pursue a reasonable course. He was there; we could not remove him. We had to reckon with Hitler and his Government. All the gentlemen continued to co-operate; I was the only one who stepped out. All these letters with which you are trying to prove I am insincere or that I am not truthful, or, as you call it, that I am a liar or a deceiver, cannot deny to the world the fact that I resigned at that time.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And you took another job within 11 days....