The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-First Day: Wednesday, 23rd January, 1946
(Part 4 of 9)

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SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship please then, Major Harcourt Barrington will deal with the presentation against the defendant von Papen.

MAJOR J. HARCOURT BARRINGTON: My Lords, I understand that the court interpreters have not got the proper papers and document books up here yet, but they can get them in a very few minutes. Would your lordship prefer that I should go on or wait until they have got them?

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Go on then.

MAJOR BARRINGTON: May it please the Tribunal. It is my duty to present the case against the defendant von Papen. Before I begin I would like to say that the documents in the document books are arranged numerically, and not in the order of presentation, and that the English document books are paged in red chalk at the bottom of the page.

THE PRESIDENT: Does that mean that the French and the Soviet are not?

MAJOR BARRINGTON: My Lord, we did not prepare French and Soviet document books.

The defendant von Papen is charged primarily, as are all the other defendants, with the guilt of the conspiracy itself. The proof of this charge of conspiracy will emerge automatically from the proof of the four allegations.

THE PRESIDENT: Major Barrington, the French members of the Tribunal have no document books at all.

MAJOR BARRINGTON: My Lord, there should be a German document book for the French members. I understand it is now being fetched. Should I wait until it arrives?

THE PRESIDENT: I think you can go on.

MAJOR BARRINGTON: The defendant Papen is charged primarily with the guilt of conspiracy, and the proof of this charge of conspiracy will emerge automatically from the proof of the four allegations specified in Appendix "A" of the Indictment. These are as follows:

(1) He promoted the accession of the Nazi conspirators to power.

(2) He participated in the consolidation of their control over Germany.

(3) He promoted the preparations for war.

(4) He participated in the political planning and preparation of the Nazi conspirators for Wars of aggression, etc.

Broadly speaking, the case against von Papen covers the period from 1 June 1932, to the conclusion of the Anschluss in March 1938.

So far in this trial, almost the only evidence specifically implicating von Papen has been evidence in regard to his activities in Austria. This evidence need only be summarised now. But if the case against von Papen rested on Austria

[Page 93]

alone, the prosecution would be in the position of relying on a period during which the essence of his task was studied plausibility, and in Which his whole purpose was to clothe his operations with a cloak of sincerity and innocent respectability. It is therefore desirable to put the evidence already given in its true perspective, by showing, in addition, the active and prominent part he played for the Nazis before he went to Austria.

Papen himself claims to have many times rejected Hitler's request that he should actually join the Nazi Party. Until 1938 this may indeed have been true, for he was shrewd enough to see the advantage of maintaining, at least outwardly, his personal independence. It will be my object to show that, despite his facade of independence, Papen was an ardent member of this conspiracy, and in spite of warnings and rebuffs was unable to resist its fascination.

In this submission of the prosecution, the key to von Papen's activities is that, although perhaps not a typical Nazi, he was an unscrupulous political opportunist, and ready to fall in with the Nazis when it suited him. He was not unpractised in duplicity, and viewed with an apparent indifference the contradictions and betrayals which his duplicity inevitably involved. One of his chief weapons was fraudulent assurance.

Before dealing with the specific charges, I will refer to document 2902-PS, which is on Page 38 of the English document book, and I put it in as Exhibit GB 233. This is von Papen's own signed statement showing his appointments. It is not in chronological order, but I will read the relevant parts as they come. I need not read the whole of it. The Tribunal will note that this statement is written by Dr. Kubuschok, counsel for von Papen, although it is signed by von Papen himself.

Paragraph I:

"Von Papen many times rejected Hitler's request to join the NSDAP. Hitler simply sent him the golden Party badge. In my opinion, legally speaking, he did not thereby become a member of the Party."
Interposing there, my Lord, the fact that he was officially regarded as having become a member in 1938 will be shown by a document which I shall refer to later.

Going on to paragraph 2: "From 1933 to 1945 von Papen was a member of the Reichstag."

Paragraph 3: "Von Papen was Reich Chancellor from 1 June 1932, to 17 November 1932. He carried on the duties of Reich Chancellor until his successor took office 2 December 1932."

Paragraph 4: "On 30 January 1933, von Papen was appointed Vice-Chancellor. From 30 June 1934" - which was the date of the Blood Purge - "he ceased to exercise official duties. On that day he was placed under arrest. Immediately after his release on 3 July 1934, he went to the Reich Chancellery to hand in his resignation to Hitler."

The rest of the paragraph I need not read. It is an argument which concerns the authenticity or otherwise of his signature, as it appears in the Reichsgesetzblatt, to certain decrees of August 1934. I am prepared to agree with his contention that his signature on these decrees may not have been correct and may have been a mistake. He admits holding office only to 3 July 1934.

He was, as the Tribunal will also remember, in virtue of being Reich Chancellor, a member of the Reich Cabinet.

Going on to paragraph 5: "On 13 November 1933, von Papen became Plenipotentiary for the Saar. This office was terminated under the same circumstances as were described in paragraph 4."

The rest of the document I need not read. It concerns his appointments to Vienna and Ankara, appointments which are matters of history. He was

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appointed Minister to Vienna on 26 July 1934, and recalled on 4 February 1938, and he was ambassador in Ankara from April 1939 until August 1944.

The first allegation against the defendant von Papen is that he used his personal influence to promote the accession of the Nazi conspirators to power. From the outset von Papen was well aware of the Nazi programme and Nazi methods. There can be no question of his having encouraged the Nazis through ignorance of these facts. The official NSDAP programme was open and notorious; it had been published in "Mein Kampf" for many years; it had been published and republished in the Year-book of the NSDAP and elsewhere. The Nazis made no secret of their intention to make it a fundamental law of the State. This has been dealt with in full at an earlier stage of the trial.

During 1932 von Papen, as Reich Chancellor, was in a particularly good position to understand the Nazi purpose and methods, and, in fact, he publicly acknowledged the Nazi menace. Take, for instance, his Munster speech on 28 August 1932. This is document 3314-PS, on Page 49 of the English document book, and I now put it in as Exhibit GB 234, and I quote two extracts from the top of the page:

"The licentiousness emanating from the appeal of the leader of the National Socialist movement does not comply very well with his claims to governmental power.

I do not concede him the right to regard the mere minority following his banner solely as the German nation and to treat all other fellow countrymen as free game."

Take also his Munich speech of 13 October 1932. That is on Page 50 of the English document book, Document 3317-PS, which I now put in as Exhibit GB 23 5, and I will read only the last extract on the page:
"In the interest of the entire nation, we decline the claim to power by parties which want to own their followers body and soul, and which want to put themselves, as a party or a movement, over and above the whole nation."
I do not rely on these random extracts to show anything more than that he had, in 1932, clearly addressed his mind to the inherent lawlessness of the Nazi philosophy. Nevertheless, in his letter to Hitler of 13 November 1932, which I shall quote more fully later, he wrote of the Nazi movement as, I quote, "so great a national movement - "

THE PRESIDENT: Where is this?

MAJOR BARRINGTON: This is in a letter which I shall quote in a few minutes, my Lord, a letter to Hitler of 13 November 1932. He wrote:

"So great a national movement, the merits of which for people and country I have always recognised in spite of necessary criticisms."
So variable and so seemingly contradictory were von Papen's acts and utterances regarding the Nazis that it is not possible to present the picture of Papen's part in this infamous enterprise unless one first reviews the steps by which he entered upon it. It then becomes clear that he threw himself, if not wholeheartedly, yet with cool and deliberate calculation, into the Nazi conspiracy.

I shall enumerate some of the principal steps by which Papen fell in with the Nazi conspiracy.

As a result of his first personal contact with Hitler, von Papen as Chancellor rescinded, on 14 June 1932, the decree passed on 13 April 1932, for the dissolution of the Nazi para-military organisations, the SA and the SS. He thereby rendered the greatest possible service to the Nazi Party, inasmuch as it relied upon its para-military organisations to beat the German people into

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submission. The decree rescinding the dissolution of the SA and the SS is shown in Document D-631, on Page 64 of the document book, and I now put it in as Exhibit GB 236. It is an extract from the Reichsgesetzblatt, which was an omnibus decree. The relevant passage is in paragraph 29:
"This order comes into operation from the day of announcement. It takes the place of the Order of the Reich President for the Safeguarding of the State Authority of...." The date should be 13 April 1932.
THE PRESIDENT: Which page of the document book is it?

MAJOR BARRINGTON: I am sorry, my Lord; it is Page 64. And the date shown there should not be 3 May 1932; it should be 13 April 1932.

That was the decree which had previously dissolved the Nazi para-military organisations under the government of Chancellor Bruning. At the bottom of the page the Tribunal will see the relevant parts of the decree of 13 April reproduced. At the beginning of paragraph 1 of that decree it said:

"All organisations of a military nature of the German National Socialist Labour Party will be dissolved with immediate effect, particularly, the Storm Detachments (SA) and the Protective Detachments (SS)."

This rescission by von Papen was made in pursuance of a bargain with Hitler which is mentioned in a book called "Dates from the History of the NSDAP," by Dr. Hans Volts, a book published with the authority of the NSDAP. It is already an exhibit, USA 592. The extract I want to quote is on Page 59 of the document book, and it is Document 3463-PS. I quote an extract from Page 41 of this little book:
"28 May" - that was in 1932, of course. "In view of the imminent fall of Bruning, at a meeting between the former deputy of the Prussian Centre Party, Franz von Papen, and the Fuehrer in Berlin, (first personal contact in Spring, 1932), the Fuehrer agrees that a Papen cabinet should be tolerated by the NSDAP, provided that the prohibition imposed on the SA uniforms and demonstrations be lifted, and the Reichstag dissolved."
It is difficult to imagine a less astute opening gambit, for a man who was about to become Chancellor, than to reinstate this sinister organisation which had been suppressed by his predecessor. This action emphasises the characteristic duplicity and insincerity of his public condemnations of the Nazis, which I quoted a few minutes ago.

Eighteen months later he publicly boasted that at the time of taking over the chancellorship he had advocated paving the way to power for what he called the "young fighting liberation movement." That will be shown in Document 3375- PS, which I shall introduce in a few minutes.

Another important step was when, on the 20 July 1932, he accomplished his famous coup d'etat in Prussia, which removed the Braun-Severing Prussian Government, and united the ruling power of the Reich and Prussia in his own hands as Reichskommissar for Prussia. This is now a matter of history. It is mentioned in Document D 632, which I now introduce as Exhibit GB 237. It is on Page 65 of the document book. This document is, I think, a semi-official biography in a series on public men.

Papen regarded this step, his coup d'etat in Prussia, as a first step in the policy, later pursued by Hitler, of co- ordinating the States with the Reich, which will be shown in Document 3357, which I shall come to later.

The next step; if the Tribunal will look at Document D-632 on Page 65 of the document book, the last four or five lines at the bottom of the page; "The Reichstag elections of 31 July, which were the result of von Papen's disbandment of the Reichstag on 4 June," - which was made in pursuance of the bargain that I mentioned a few minutes ago - "strengthened enormously

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the NSDAP, so that von Papen offered to the leader of the now strongest party his participation in the government as Vice-Chancellor. Adolf Hitler rejected this offer on 13 August.

The new Reichstag, which assembled on 30 August, was disbanded by 12 September. The new elections brought about a considerable loss to the NSDAP, but did not strengthen the government parties, so that Papen's government retired on 17 November 1932 after unsuccessful negotiations with the party leaders."

My Lord, I shall wish to quote a few more extracts from that biography, but as it is a mere catalogue of events, perhaps Your Lordship would allow me to return to it at the appropriate time.

So far as those negotiations mentioned just now in the biography concern Hitler, they involved an exchange of letters in which von Papen wrote to Hitler, on 13 November 1932, and the latter replied on 16 November. Papen's letter to Hitler is Document D-633, on Page 68 of the English document book, and I now put it in as Exhibit GB 238. I propose to read a part of this letter, because it shows the positive efforts made by Papen to ally himself with the Nazis, even in face of further rebuffs from Hitler. I read the third paragraph. I should tell the Tribunal that there is some underlining in the English translation of that paragraph, which does not occur in the German text:

"A new situation has arisen through the elections of November 6, and at the same time a fresh opportunity for all nationalist elements to be concentrated anew. The Reich President has instructed me to find out, by conversations with the leaders of the individual parties concerned, whether and how far they will be prepared to support the carrying out of the political and economic programme on which the Reich Government has embarked. In spite of the National Socialist Press calling it a na­ve attempt for Reich Chancellor von Pa en to confer with the people concerned in the nationalist concentration and saying that there can only be one answer, viz.: "No negotiations with Papen," I should consider it a neglect of my duties, and I would be unable to justify it to my own conscience, if I did not approach you in this matter. I am quite aware, from the papers, that you are maintaining your demands to be entrusted with the Chancellor's office, and I am equally aware of the continued existence of the reasons for the decision of 13 August. I need not assure you again that I myself do not come into this matter at all. All the same, I feel that the leader of so great a national movement, the merits of which for the people and country I have always recognised, in spite of necessary criticisms, should not refuse to discuss with the German politician who at present bears the full responsibility, the situation and the decisions required. We must attempt to forget the bitterness of the elections, and to place the welfare of the country, which we, both of us, serve, above all other considerations."
Hitler replied on 16 November 1932 in a long letter, laying down terms which were evidently unacceptable to von Papen, since he resigned tile next day and was succeeded by von Schleicher. That document is D-634, put in as part of Exhibit GB 238, as it is part of the same correspondence. I need not read from the letter itself.

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