The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Was not up to that moment rather a long time for you in
which to discover that somewhat obvious truth after your
close co-operation with Hitler?

A. My opinion about Hitler and his inner political
significance was completely clear after 30th June, 1934.
But, like all other human beings, I could assume that in the
field of foreign politics at least he would be sensible, and
I was of this opinion until after the Munich agreement.

Q. 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?

A. Yes.

Q. And you did so, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you remember - I do not want to delay by referring to
the document, but you may take it as an exact quotation -
that on 16th November, 1932, Hitler wrote to you and said:
"You must be aware of my attitude and the attitude of my

A. 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 own programme and forms a
coalition programme. That was what Hitler did on 30th
January, 1943.

Q. Yes, but before we come to 30th January I want to get
your view in 1932. 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?

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

Q. 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?

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

Q. I will just give you one sentence from the affidavit of
Herr Meissner, which the Tribunal will find in Document Book
IIA, on Page 43. This will be Exhibit GB 495. The document
number is 3309-PS.

This was after, in August 1932. According to Meissner:

  "Hindenburg stated that because of the tense situation he
  could not, with a clear conscience, risk transferring the
  power of government to a new party, such as the National
  Socialists, which did not command a majority and which
  was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined."

That is a very moderate statement of the Reich President's
views at that time, is it not?

A. Yes.

Q. 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?

                                                  [Page 326]

A. 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 programme. For example, we have seen
that in the case of the Socialist parties of all countries.

Q. Now, is it true, as the defendant Goering stated under
oath, that he told you in 1932 that, whatever else the Nazis
would do, Hitler would not become a "vice" or second man;
that he would oppose any political set-up which did not give
him the first place? Is that correct?

A. Yes, Hitler also always told me that.

Q. And therefore you realised that Hitler and his
accomplices wanted a full opportunity to put their programme
and intentions into effect, did you not?

A. No, I did not know that. That is a statement which you
make here which does not reflect the conditions at that
time. You need only read the government programme of our
coalition of the 1st of February.

Q. Defendant, do not be afraid that I am not coming to the
period of your coalition of January the 30th. For the moment
I am just asking you one or two questions about your view of
Hitler and Hindenburg's view of Hitler in 1932 because I
want to deal with this matter by very quick but very clear

I am still asking you about 1932. The question I put to you
was: Did you realize that, if Hitler and his accomplices
came into power, they wanted and would be content only with
a full opportunity of putting their programme and intentions
into effect?

A. No, I did not know that; otherwise I would not have made
the attempt in 1933 to get them to support a joint coalition

Q. Now, you have told us, I think, but I just want to get it
quite clear, that your views as to what was necessary for
Germany in the second half of 1932 was a settlement of the
internal political differences and strife and an adjustment
of relations with the Western Powers for the modification of
the requirements of Versailles. I am trying to put it quite
shortly as I understand it from you. That is right?

A. Yes.

Q. And were these aims - I think your first approach was to
invite Hitler to be Vice-Chancellor in your government in
August 1932, was it not?

A. That is quite right.

Q. Hitler refused that; and he refused a repetition of your
offer in November 1932, is that not right?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, in order to save time I just want to see if Herr
Meissner puts the position correctly in paragraphs six and
seven of his affidavit. I will summarize it for you and
believe me I will be most pleased to read anything of which
you have any doubt. He puts it in this way. That in November
1932 you thought that the general situation and the Nazi
Party, in particular, could be controlled if the President
gave you the power to make decrees under Article 48, and you
had the support of the Reichswehr and the police; but at
that time General von Schleicher disagreed because he
thought that the Reichswehr was not capable of keeping order
in Germany. Is that right?

A. It is incorrect in so far as this process cannot be
covered by any paragraph of the Constitution but constitutes
a breach of the Constitution. Otherwise it is correct.

Q. That he might have had to use ultra-constitutional
methods to keep control, is that what you mean?

A. Yes. As I have said here, he gave me this assignment on
the first of December.

Q. Yes, but originally, is Meissner right in saying that you
desired, after you had failed to get Hitler into your
government, you desired to rule by decree and by keeping
control with the Reichswehr, and General von Schleicher said
that it could not be done?

                                                  [Page 327]

A. No, that is not true. After President von Hindenburg had
decided that he did not want to break the Constitution, he
appointed General von Schleicher Reich Chancellor, as is
well known. At that time Herr von Schleicher wanted to
create a majority by splitting the Party and, of course, I
supported this attempt of Herr von Schleicher.

Q. Just in case it is any mistake of mine may I just give
you Meissner's own words. It is paragraph 5, Page 44 of
Document Book IIA. I think, defendant, it would be
convenient for you to follow it, if you do not mind, so as
to avoid any possibility of mistake.

A. Yes.

Q. It is paragraph 5 of Herr Meissner's statement:

  "Papen's re-appointment as Chancellor by President
  Hindenburg would probably have taken place if he had been
  prepared to take up an open fight against the National
  Socialists, which would have involved the threat or use
  of force. Almost up to the time of his resignation, Papen
  and some of the other ministers agreed on the necessity
  for pressing the fight against the Nazis by employing all
  means at the disposal of the State and taking recourse to
  Article 48 of the Constitution, even if this might lead
  to armed conflict. But the other ministers believed that
  such a course would lead to civil war.
  The decision was provided by Schleicher, who earlier had
  recommended energetic action against the National
  Socialists, even if this meant the use of police and
  army. Then at the decisive cabinet meeting he abandoned
  this idea and declared himself ready for an understanding
  with Hitler."

Is that correct?

A. In part it is correct, and in part it is not correct.

Q. Now tell us as shortly as you can the part which is not

A. My re-appointment as Chancellor by Hindenburg, as Herr
Meissner puts it, would have been possible if I had been
ready to wage an open battle against the Nazis. That is
completely false historically. On 1st December, I suggested
to Hindenburg that he violate the Constitution and thereby
wage open battle against the Nazi Party. Herr von Schleicher
opposed that. That is the historical truth.

Q. So that we shall have it in sequence, will you now look
at paragraph 6 of the same document, about the second
sentence; it begins:

   "When it became clear that Hitler was not willing to
   enter Schleicher's cabinet and that Schleicher on his
   part was unable to split the National Socialist Party,
   as he had hoped to do with the help of Gregor Strasser,
   the policy for which Schleicher had been appointed
   Chancellor was shipwrecked. Schleicher was aware that
   Hitler was particularly embittered against him and would
   never agree to co-operate with him. Therefore he,
   Schleicher, changed his policy and decided to fight
   against the Nazis - which meant that he now wanted to
   pursue the policy which he had sharply opposed a few
   weeks before, when Papen had suggested it."

Is that right?

A. That is quite right.

Q. Now, you see - I want to get the position quite clear.
You told us that you had approached Hitler first in August;
before you approached Hitler you had already legalised the
position of the SA and the SS, which had been made illegal
by Chancellor Bruning. You did that on 14th June, did you

A. I had lifted the prohibition, yes, but only for four

Q. Did you think it was a good thing to lift the prohibition
against the SA, the terror of the streets?

A. I explained clearly to the Tribunal how the lifting of
this prohibition came about. The intention was to influence
Hitler and his party to tolerate my cabinet. The second
reason was that the prohibition of these formations was
one-sided, if the socialists' and communists' fighting
formations were not also prohibited.

Q. And on 20th July you had forcefully got rid of the
Braun-Severing government and got control of Prussia, and
the Prussian police under your own hand?

                                                  [Page 328]

A. It cannot be expressed in that way, no.

Q. Well, you had got rid of the Braun-Severing government
and got power over Prussia and the Prussian police under
your own hands, had you not?

A. I did not have the Prussian police in my hands. The Reich
Commissioner for Prussia, whom I had appointed - a very
moderate man - now had charge of the Prussian police.

Q. And under the Weimar Constitution you, as Chancellor, had
the right to dictate all the general lines of policy, and
the Commissioner for Prussia and every other Minister had to
accept your policy; was that not right?

A. After I had appointed a commissioner, I had the right to
determine the general lines of policy for Prussia.

Q. Now, I would just like you to look at a speech of yours
which you made at Essen in November 1933.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: It is Document Book II, Page 54, and
it is Page 47 of the German document book.


Q. Now, you see the introductory words:

  "Ever since Providence called upon me to become the
  pioneer of the 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."

Is that true?

A. Absolutely, yes, that refers to -

Q. I just asked you if it is true. I may come back to it

  "Just as I, when I took over the chancellorship,
  advocated paving the way to power for the young, fighting
  liberation movement."

Was your work, in paving the way to power for the young,
fighting liberation movement, to legalise the SA and to turn
out the moderate government in Prussia and centralise the
control of the police?

A. No, that would have been a very bad course.

Q. Just pause there and tell me if that was not what you had
done. Tell the Tribunal how you had paved the way to power
for the young, fighting liberation movement, if it was not
by doing that.

A. Yes, I will explain clearly. The programme of the
National Socialist Party provided for the liberation of
Germany from the discriminations to which we were subjected
by the Versailles Treaty. I have spoken here in detail about
this. I have explained what efforts I made to obtain the
co-operation of the big Powers in this connection. We wanted
to become a big power again, after being a second-rate
nation. That was the meaning of it.

Q. Defendant, I do not want to stop you, and the Tribunal
will give you every opportunity of repeating what you have
said on that point, but I do want you to answer my question.
If I am wrong in what I have put to you as the two things
you did to pave the way, just tell us quite shortly what
else you had done to pave the way for this fighting
liberation movement? That is the question. What had you

A. 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.

Q. Now, did you believe at that time that Hitler was
absolutely necessary for Germany?

A. I was of the opinion that a man who in March 1932, before
I was in the government, had 36.8 per cent of all German
votes in the presidential election, that that man and his
party had to be included in any responsible government.

Q. But beyond his electoral success, did you think that
Hitler, from his personality, aims and programme, was
essential for Germany at that time?

                                                  [Page 329]

A. I do not know how a party which controlled 36.8 per cent
of all German votes could be dealt with by means of the

Q. Look at your own words in the next paragraph of that
speech. You do not seem to refer to merely electoral

  "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 said there?

A. 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 programme, and I have already told the Tribunal 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

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