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   Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume Two, Chapter XIV


(1) In the first critical year and a half of Nazi
consolidation of control over Germany, von Papen was second
only to Hitler in the Cabinet which established the legal
basis for furtherance of the Nazi program. As Vice-
Chancellor, van Papen was the only member of the government
empowered to act for the Fuehrer in his absence.

(2) Von Papen actively participated in the general abolition
of civil liberties by promoting legislation which paved the
way for the Nazi police state. At the first meeting of
Hitler's Cabinet, there was intensive discussion concerning
the possibility of securing passage of an Enabling Law which
in practical effect would liquidate the Reichstag and make
the Nazi Cabinet the supreme law-making power of the Reich.
The conspirators, including von Papen, at this meeting
clearly indicated that they did not at the time hold
sufficient power to achieve this measure by normal
constitutional methods (351-PS).

Seizing the Reichstag fire as a pretext, the Cabinet
forthwith arranged for the suspension of those fundamental
civil liberties (including freedom of speech, press,
assembly and association) which would protect citizens who
dared to oppose the plans of the conspirators. The
suspension of civil liberties was accomplished by issuance
of a Presidential decree, which presumably, according to
German usage, was proposed to the Reich President by the
Cabinet and-countersigned by those Ministers whose
departments were involved (1390-PS;

This basic law was only the first of a series which placed
the individual dissenter at the mercy of the Nazi state. As
if to underscore explicitly the basic policy behind this
legislation, von Papen personally signed the decree which
implemented this legislation by creating Special Courts to
enforce its provisions. This decree abolished rights,
including the right of appeal, which had previously
characterized the administration of justice by the German
judicial system. It thus constituted also the first
legislative measure for the Nazification of the German
judiciary (2076-PS).

The subsequent creation of the dreaded Volksgericht and the
wholesale Nazification of the German system of criminal law
was merely the logical development of these earlier steps.
This too was achieved by decree of the Cabinet in which von
Papen was Vice-Chancellor

(3) Von Papen actively participated in substitution of the
Nazi Cabinet for the Reichstag as Germany's supreme law-
giving authority, notwithstanding his doubts as to the
advisability of giving Hitler such extensive power. Von
Papen actively participated in the Cabinet deliberations
concerning the proposed so-called Enabling Act, and
concerning the means by which it might be made law (351-PS;
2962-PS; 2963-PS).

The enactment of this law deprived the Reichstag of its
legislative functions, so that legislative as well as
executive powers were concentrated in Hitler and his Cabinet
(2001-PS). Enactment of the law was made possible only by
the application of Nazi pressure and terror against the
potential opponents of this legislation, and by taking
advantage of the Presidential decree of 28 February 1933,
suspending constitutional guarantees of freedom. (See
section 2 of Chapter VII on the Acquisition of Totalitarian
Political Control.)

As if to indorse the methods by which this legislation was
enacted, von Papen personally signed the Amnesty Decree of

                                                  [Page 926]
March 1933, liberating all persons who had committed murder
between 30 January 1933 and 21 March 1933 against anti-Nazi
politicians, writers, and Reichstag Deputies (2059-PS).

Von Papen participated in this program notwithstanding the
fact that he foresaw at that time the implications of
granting to Hitler the complete powers conferred by the
Enabling Act. He has so testified (in an interrogation at
Nurnberg, 3 September 1945):

     "Q. After Hitler became Chancellor, when for the first
     time did you have any doubts about the wisdom of having
     allowed him to become Chancellor?
     "A. Well, that's difficult to say. I mean the first
     doubt certainly I had when the Reichstag gave in to his
     request for the law, to enable him to rule the country
     without parliament."

(4) Von Papen not only participated in the seizure by the
cabinet of supreme power for the Nazis, but as a member of
the cabinet participated in the systematic elimination of
all potential enemies of the Nazi conspiracy. The Reichstag
fire and the ensuing suppression of civil liberties marked
the beginning of the destruction of all rival political
parties. The immediate elimination of the legally elected
Communist members from the Reichstag was merely the
forerunner of the rapid and complete liquidation of all
political parties other than the National Socialists (2403-
PS; 1396-PS; 2058-PS; 1388-PS). By these measures the
suppression of all democratic opposition became complete,
within one year of the time when von Papen was warning his
countrymen of the dangers of authoritarianism.

Having substituted the autocracy of the Hitler cabinet for
the democratic force of the Reichstag, the cabinet proceeded
immediately to enact a series of laws abolishing the states
and coordinating them with the Reich (2004-PS; 2005-PS; 2006-
PS). The enactment of these laws, which had been clearly
indicated by point 25 of the Party program, removed all
possible retarding influences which the German federal State
might have exerted against the overwhelming centralization
of power in Hitler' Reich Cabinet.

The importance of this step, as well as the role played by
Papen, is reflected in an exchange of letters between Reichs
President Hindenburg, von Papen in his capacity as
Reichskommissar for Prussia, and Reichs Minister Goering.
The exchange occurred in connection with the recall of the
Reichskommissar and the appointment of Goering to the post
of Minister President of Prussia. In tendering his
resignation, on 7 April 1933, von Papen wrote to Hitler:

     "With the draft of the law for the coordination of the
     states with the Reich, passed today by the Reich
     Chancellor, legislative work has begun which will be of
     historical significance for the political development
     of the German state. The step taken by the Reich
     Government, which I headed at the time, is now crowned
     by this new inter-locking of the Reich. You, Herr Reich
     Chancellor, will now, as once Bismarck, be able to
     coordinate in all points the policy of the greatest of
     German states with that of the Reich. Now that the new
     law enables you to appoint a Prussian Prime Minister I
     ask you to inform the Reich President that I return to
     his hands my post of Reichs Commissar for Prussia."

In transmitting this resignation request to President
Hindenburg, Hitler stated:

     "Vice-Chancellor von Papen has sent a letter to me
     which I enclose for your information. Herr von Papen
     already informed me within the last few days that he
     agreed with Minister Goering to resign on his own
     volition, as soon as the unified conduct of the
     governmental affairs in the Reich and in Prussia would
     be assured by the new law on coordination of policy in
     the Reich and the states [Laender].
     "On the eve of the day when the new law on the
     institution of Reich governors [Reich-Statthalter] was
     adopted, Herr von Papen considered this aim as having
     been attained and he requested of me to undertake the
     appointment of the Prussian Prime Minister, when at the
     same time he would offer his full time services in the
     "Herr von Papen, in accepting the commission for the
     Government of Prussia in these difficult times since 30
     January, has rendered a very meritorious service to the
     realization of the idea of coordinating the policy in
     the Reich and the States. His collaboration in the
     Reich cabinet, for which he now offers all his
     strength, is infinitely valuable; my relationship to
     him is such a heartily friendly one, that I sincerely
     rejoice at the great help I shall thus receive.
                                    "For profound reverence,
                                             "A.H." (357-PS)

The enactment of this legislation followed repeated
declarations in which Papen had warned his countrymen of the
dangers of the exaggerated degree of centralized authority
which would result from abolition of the federal system.
These warnings began before Hitler's accession to power and
continued by implica-

                                                  [Page 928]
tion in the reassurances which Papen gave in February 1933
to Bavarian political leaders who expressed their fears of
Nazi centralized authority (Cuno Horkenbach, Das Deutsche
Reich von 1918 bis Heute. (The German Reich from 1918 until
today) (Berlin 1933), p. 44). As late as 3 March 1933, in an
election speech at Stuttgart, von Papen warned that:

     "Federalism saves us from centralism, that
     organizational form which concentrically draws all the
     vital forces of a people to one point, as a mirror will
     do with the rays of the sun. No people is less suited
     for being governed centralistically than the German

Less than one month after its seizure of the legislative
power, the cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted
the first of a series of laws aimed at establishing firm
Nazi control over the entire civil service and judiciary
(2012-PS; 1400-PS; 1398-PS). Having been a public servant
himself, von Papen was aware of the far-reaching effect of
these first legislative and administrative steps in
attaining full totalitarian control over the entire
governmental machinery of Germany.

The cabinet of which von Papen was a member embarked upon a
state policy of persecution of the Jews. The first organized
act in this program was the boycott of Jewish enterprises on
1 April 1933, which was approved by the entire cabinet. This
was followed by a series of laws beginning the systematic
elimination of the- Jews from public and professional life
in Germany. (See Section 7 of Chapter VII on the Program for
Persecution of Jews.)

All these suppressive measures were in line with long-
standing basic objectives of the NSDAP to which von Papen
had agreed in his January conference with Hitler and von

(5) To complete its suppression of all rival influences, the
Cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted a series of
decrees which strengthened the Nazi movement by conferring
upon it a para-governmental status. Followers of the Party,
through a decree signed personally by von Papen, were
granted amnesty "for penal acts committed in the material
revolution of the German People, in its preparation of the
fight for the German soil" (2059-PS). The perpetrators of
Nazi terrorism were thereby placed above the law, and a
pattern was established for the subsequent handling of Nazi

This cabinet enacted measures which gave legal protection to
the status and symbols of the Party and its formations (1652-

This cabinet enacted a series of measures to assure the Nazi

                                                  [Page 929]
movement's spiritual control over Germany (2029-PS; 2030-PS;
2415-PS; 2083-PS; 2078-PS; 2088-PS).

Having first outlawed all political parties other than the
NSDAP, the cabinet of which von Papen was-a member formally
decreed that:

     "1. After the victory of the National Socialistic
     Revolution, the National Socialistic German Labor Party
     is the bearer of the concept of the German State and is
     inseparably the state.
     "2. It will be a part of the public law. Its
     organization will be determined by the Fuehrer." (1395-

Having granted para-governmental status to the Nazi party,
and having assured legal unity of the Party's Fuehrer and
the Reich's Chancellor, the Nazis next step was to combine
in the same person the Presidency of the German Reich. This
was accomplished by merging the offices of President and
Chancellor, by means of a decree signed by von Papen (2003-
PS). An important consequence of this law was to give to
Hitler the supreme command of the German armed forces,
always a perquisite of the Presidency (2050-PS).

(6) Despite disagreements as to detail, von Papen
fundamentally agreed with basic Nazi objectives and publicly
endorsed the regime for which he shared responsibility as
Vice Chancellor. Von Papen's basic political philosophy was
not so divergent from Nazism as to preclude an easy bridging
of the gap. In 1932, while still Chancellor, von Papen had
been willing to head a government in which Nazism would be
strongly represented. By January 1933 he found it possible -
- as a price for his restoration to a position of public
prominence -- to submerge his differences with Hitler and to
direct his energies to the installation of a Nazi regime
(see B above).

In addition to his participation as a cabinet member in the
process of Nazifying Germany, von Papen's devotion to the
Nazi cause was repeatedly demonstrated throughout this
period by public statements and acts both by himself and by
Hitler. Thus, as noted above in connection with his role in
the elimination of the Laender as a political force, von
Papen wrote Hitler in April 1933, that

     "You, Herr Reich Chancellor, will now, as once
     Bismarck, be able to coordinate in all points the
     policy of the greatest of German states with that of
     the Reich,"

And Hitler on that occasion took notice of Papen's services
by declaring that

                                                  [Page 930]
     "His collaboration in the Reich cabinet, for which he
     now offers all his strength, is infinitely valuable; my
     relationship to him is such a heartily friendly one,
     that I sincerely rejoice at the great help I shall thus
     receive." (3357-PS).

And again on 2 November 1933, speaking from the same
platform with Hitler and Gauleiter Terboven, in the course
of the campaign for Reichstag election and the referendum on
Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations, von Papen

"Ever since Providence called upon me to become the pioneer
of national resurrection and the rebirth of our homeland, I
have tried to support with all my strength the work of the
national socialist movement and its leader; and just as I at
the time of taking over the chancellorship have advocated to
pave the way to power for the young fighting liberation
movement, just as I on January 30 was selected by a gracious
fate to put the hands of our chancellor and Fuehrer into the
hand of our beloved field marshal, so do I today again feel
the obligation to say to the German people and all those who
have kept confidence in me:

     "The kind Lord has blessed Germany by giving it in
     times of deep distress a leader who will lead it,
     through all distresses and weaknesses, through all
     crisis and moment of danger, with the sure instinct of
     the statesman into a happy future."
     "Let us in this hour say to the Fuehrer of the new
     Germany that we believe in him and his work." (3375-

By this time as noted above, the cabinet of which Papen was
a member had abolished the civil liberties which were a
condition to any effective protest against Nazism, had
sanctioned political murder committed in aid of Nazism's
seizure of power, had substituted itself for the Reichstag
as Germany's supreme law-making authority, had destroyed all
rival political parties, had enacted the basic laws for
abolition of the political influence of the Laender, had
provided the legislative basis for purging the civil service
and judiciary of anti-Nazi elements, had embarked upon a
state policy of persecution of the Jews, had legislated Nazi
influence into the cultural life of the German nation, and
had taken its first steps toward conferring a para-
governmental status upon the Nazi party and its principal

Even after von Papen's Marburg speech of June 1934, in which
he again showed some understanding of the dangers of Nazism,
he remained a pillar of Nazi policy and influence. Thus

                                                  [Page 931]
himself, in attempting to justify the Blood Purge of 30 June
1934, tacitly admitted that Papen was still considered a
loyal member of the regime:

     "The allegations [of foreign newspapers] that Vice-
     Chancellor von Papen, Reichsminister Seldte, or other
     gentlemen of the Reich Cabinet had entertained
     connections with the rebels is refuted by the fact that
     one of the first intentions of the rebels was to
     assassinate these men." (Hitler Reichstag address, 18
     July 1934, as quoted in Das Archiv, Vol. IV, pp. 495,

The Fuehrer thus made-a tacit bid for the continuing loyalty
of von Papen. Von Papen's subsequent career demonstrated
that this was not a vain expectation. He left the vice-
chancellorship only to assume the new task of special
emissary of the Fuehrer to Austria. But before leaving,
while still Vice Chancellor, von Papen signed the decree
combining the positions of President and Reichs Chancellor
on 1 August 1934, and on 5 August 1934 he delivered the
document -- the so-called Hindenburg Testament which
purported to confer the revered president's dying blessing
upon Hitler and the Nazi regime (Notice concerning delivery
of Hindenburg's testament by Vice Chancellor von Papen, Das
Archiv, Vol. V, page 648).

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