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 7 of 9)


[Page 105]

By this time the cabinet of which von Papen was a member, and to which he had given all his strength, had abolished civil liberties; had sanctioned political murder committed in aid of Nazism's seizure of power; had destroyed all rival political parties; had enacted the basic laws for abolition of the political influence of the Federal States ; had provided the legislative basis for purging the Civil Service and judiciary of anti-Nazi elements; and had embarked upon a State policy of persecution of the Jews.

Papen's words are words of hollow mockery: "The good Lord has blessed Germany ."

[Page 106]

The third allegation against the defendant Papen is that he promoted preparations for war. Knowing as he did the basic programme of the Nazi Party, it is inconceivable that, as Vice-Chancellor for a year and a half, he could have been dissociated from the conspirators' warlike preparations; he, of whom Hitler wrote to Hindenberg on 10 April 1933 that "his collaboration in the Reich Cabinet for which he now offers all his strength is infinitely valuable."

The fourth allegation against Papen is that he participated in the political planning and preparations for wars of aggression and wars in violation of international treaties. In Papen's case this allegation is really the story of the Anschluss. His part in that was a preparation for wars of aggression in two senses: first, that the Anschluss was the necessary preliminary step to all the subsequent armed aggressions; second, that, even if it can be contended that the Anschluss was in fact achieved without aggression, it was planned in such a way that it would have been achieved by aggression if that had been necessary.

I need do no more than summarise Papen's Austrian activities, since the whole story of the Anschluss has been described to the Tribunal already, though, with the Tribunal's permission I would like to read again two short passages of a particularly personal nature regarding Papen. But, before I deal with Papen's activities in Austria, there is one matter that I feel I ought not to omit to mention to the Tribunal.

On 18 June 1934 Papen made his remarkable speech at Marburg University. I do not propose to put it in evidence, nor is it in the document book, because it is a matter of history, and in what I say I do not intend to commit myself in regard to the motives and consequences of his speech, which are not free from mystery, but I will say this : that as far as concerns the subject matter of Papen's Marburg speech, it was an outspoken criticism of the Nazis. One must imagine that the Nazis were furiously angry and, although he escaped death in the Blood Purge twelve days later, he was put under arrest for three days. Whether this arrest was originally intended to end in execution or whether it was to protect him from the Purge as one too valuable to be lost, I do not now inquire. After his release from arrest he not unnaturally, resigned his Vice-Chancellorship. Now the question that arises - and this is why I mention the matter at this point - is: why after these barbaric events did he ever go back into the service of the Nazis again? What an opportunity missed! If he had stopped then, he might have saved the world much suffering. Suppose that Hitler's own Vice-Chancellor, just released from arrest, had defied the Nazis and told the world the truth. There might never have been a reoccupation of the Rhineland; there might never have been a war. But I must not speculate. The lamentable fact is that he slipped back, he succumbed again to the fascination of Hitler.

After the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss only three weeks later, on 25 July 1934, the situation was such as to call for the removal of the German Minister Rieth, and for the prompt substitution of a man who was an enthusiast for the Anschluss with Germany, who could be tolerant of Nazi objectives and methods, but who could lend an aura of respectability to official German representation in Vienna. Hitler's reaction to the murder of Dollfuss was immediate. He chose his man as soon as he heard the news. The very next day, 26 July, he sent von Papen a letter of appointment. This is on Page 37 of the English document book; it is Document 2799-PS and it has already been judicially noticed by the Tribunal. Mr. Alderman read the letter, and I wish to refer only to the personal remarks toward the end. Hitler in this letter, after reciting his version of the Dollfuss affair, and expressing his desire that Austrian-German relations should be brought again into normal and friendly channels, says in the third paragraph

[Page 107]

"For this reason I request you, dear Herr von Papen, to take over this important task, just because you have possessed and continue to possess my most complete and unlimited confidence, ever since we have worked together in the Cabinet."
And the last paragraph of the letter
"Thanking you once more for all that you once did for the co-ordination of the Government of the National Revolution and, since then, together with us, for Germany."
THE PRESIDENT: This might be a good time to break off for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken)

MAJOR BARRINGTON: My Lord, I had just read from the letter of appointment as Minister in Vienna which Hitler sent to von Papen on 26 July 1934. This letter, which, of course, was made public, naturally did not disclose the real intention of von Papen's appointment. The actual mission of von Papen was frankly stated shortly after his arrival in Vienna in the course of a private conversation he had with the American Minister, Mr. Messersmith. I quote from Mr. Messersmith's affidavit, which is Document 1760-PS, Exhibit USA 57, and it is on Page 22 of the document book, just about half way through the second paragraph: Mr. Messersmith said:

"When I did call on von Papen in the German Legation, he greeted me with: ' Now you are in my Legation and I can control the conversation.' In the baldest and most cynical manner he then proceeded to tell me that all of South-eastern Europe, to the borders of Turkey, was Germany's natural hinterland, and that he had been charged with the mission of facilitating German economic and political control over all this region for Germany. He blandly and directly said that getting control of Austria was to be the first step. He definitely stated that he was in Austria to undermine and weaken the Austrian Government and, from Vienna, to work towards weakening the governments in the other States to the South and South-east. He said that he intended to use his reputation as a good Catholic to gain influence with certain Austrians, such as Cardinal Innitzer, toward, that end."
Throughout the earlier period of his mission to Austria, von Papen's activity was characterised by the assiduous avoidance of any appearance of intervention. His true mission was re-affirmed with clarity several months after it began, when he was instructed by Berlin that "during the next two years nothing can be undertaken which will give Germany external political difficulties" and that every appearance of German intervention in Austrian affairs must be avoided; and, von Papen himself stated to Berger- Waldenegg, an Austrian Foreign Minister: "Yes, you have your French and English friends now, and you can have your independence a little longer." All of that was told in detail by Mr. Alderman, again quoting from Mr. Messersmith's affidavit.

Throughout this earlier-period, the Nazi movement was gaining strength in Austria without openly admitted German intervention, and Germany needed more time to consolidate her diplomatic position. These reasons for German policy were frankly expressed by the German Foreign Minister von Neurath, in conversation with the American Ambassador to France. This was read into the transcript at Page 520 by Mr. Alderman from Document L- 150, Exhibit USA 65. (Part 1, p. 233).

The defendant von Papen accordingly restricted his activities to the normal ambassadorial function of cultivating all respectable elements in Austria, and ingratiating himself in these circles. Despite his facade of strict non-intervention, von Papen remained in contact with subversive elements in Austria. Thus, in his report to Hitler, dated 17 May 1935, he gave advice about

[Page 108]

Austrian-Nazi strategy as proposed by Captain Leopold, Leader of the illegal Austrian Nazis, the object of which was to trick Dr. Schuschnigg into establishing an Austrian coalition government with the Nazi Party. This is Document 2247-PS, Exhibit USA 64. (Part 1, pp. 231, 232). It is on Page 34 of the English document book. I do not want to read this letter again, but I would like to call the attention of the Tribunal to the first line of what appears as the second paragraph in the English text, where von Papen, talking about this strategy of Captain Leopold, says, "I suggest that we take an active part in this game."

I mention also in connection with the illegal organisations in Austria, Document 812-PS, Exhibit USA 61, which the Tribunal will remember was a report from Rainer to Nickel.

Eventually the agreement of 11 July 1936 between Germany and Austria was negotiated by von Papen. This is already in evidence as TC-22, Exhibit GB 20. The public form of this agreement provides that, while Austria in her policy should regard herself as a German State, yet Germany would recognise her full sovereignty, and would not exercise direct or indirect influence on her inner political order. More interesting was the secret part of the agreement, revealed by Mr. Messersmith, which ensured the Nazis an influence in the Austrian cabinet and participation in her political life.

After the Agreement the defendant von Papen continued to pursue his policy by maintaining contact with the illegal Nazis, by trying to influence appointments to strategic cabinet positions, and by attempting to secure official recognition of Nazi front organisations. Reporting to Hitler on 1 September 1936, he summarised his programme for normalising Austrian-German relations in pursuance of the agreement of 11 July. This is Document 2246-PS, Exhibit USA 67, on Page 33 of the English document book.

The Tribunal will recall that he recommended "as a guiding principle, continued, patient, psychological manipulations with slowly intensified pressure directed at changing the regime." Then he mentions his discussion with the illegal party and says that he is aiming at "corporative representation of the movement in the Fatherland Front, but nevertheless refraining from putting National-Socialists in important positions for the time being.

There is no need to go over again the events that led up to the meeting of Schuschnigg with Hitler in February 1938, which von Papen arranged and which he attended, and to the final invasion of Austria in March 1938. It is enough if I quote from the Biography again on Page 66 of the document book. It is about two-thirds of the way down the page:

"After the events of March 1938, which caused Austria's incorporation into the German Reich, von Papen had the satisfaction of being present at the Fuehrer's side when the entry into Vienna took place, having just been admitted on 14 February 1938 into the Party in recognition of his valuable collaboration, and having received the Golden Party Badge from the Fuehrer."
And the Biography continues:
"At first von Papen retired to his estate Wallerfargen in the Saar district, but soon the Fuehrer required his services again, and on 18 April 1939 appointed von Papen German Ambassador in Ankara."
Thus the fascination of serving Hitler triumphed once again, and this time it was at a date when the seizure of Czechoslovakia could have left no shadow of doubt in Papen's mind that Hitler was determined to pursue his programme of aggression.

One further quotation from the Biography, on Page 66, the last sentence of the last paragraph but one:

"After his return to the Reich" - that was in 1944 - "von Papen was awarded the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Order with Swords."

[Page 109]

In conclusion, I draw the Tribunal's attention again to the fulsome praises which Hitler publicly bestowed upon von Papen for his services, especially in the earlier days. I have given two instances, where Hitler said "his collaboration is infinitely valuable," and again "You possess my most complete and unlimited confidence."

Papen, the ex-Chancellor, the soldier, the respected Catholic, Papen the diplomat, Papen the man of breeding and culture - there was the man who could overcome the hostility and antipathy of those respectable elements who barred Hitler's way. Papen was - to repeat the words of Sir Hartley Shawcross in his opening speech - "One of the men whose co- operation and support made the Nazi Government of Germany possible."

That concludes my case. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe will now follow with the case of von Neurath.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: May it please the Tribunal, the presentation against the defendant von Neurath falls into five parts, and the first of these is concerned with the following positions and honours which he held.

He was a member of the Nazi Party from 30 January 1937 until 1945, and he was awarded the Golden Party Badge on 30 January 1937.

He was General in the SS. He was personally appointed Gruppenfuehrer by Hitler in September 1937 and promoted to Obergruppenfuehrer on 21 June 1943.

He was Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Chancellorship of the defendant von Papen from 2 June 1932, and under the Chancellorship of Hitler from 30 January 1933 until he was replaced by the defendant von Ribbentrop on 4 February 1938.

He was Reich Minister from 4 February 1938 until May 1945.

He was President of the Secret Cabinet Council, to which he was appointed on 4 February 1938, and he was a member of the Reich Defence Council.

He was appointed Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia from 18 March 1939 until he was replaced by the defendant Frick on 25 August 1943.

He was awarded the Adler-orden by Hitler at the time of his appointment as Reich Protector. The defendant Ribbentrop was the only other German to receive this decoration.

If the Tribunal please, these facts are collected in Document 2972-PS, which is Exhibit USA 19, and in that document, which is signed by the defendant and his counsel, the defendant makes comments on certain of these matters with which I should like to deal.

He says that the award of the Golden Party Badge was made on 30 January 1937 against his will and without his being asked.

I point out that this defendant not only refrained from repudiating the allegedly unwanted honour, but, after receiving it, attended meetings at which wars of aggression were planned, actively participated in the rape of Austria, and tyrannised over Bohemia and Moravia.

The second point is that his appointment as Gruppenfuehrer was also against his will and without his being asked.

On that point, the prosecution submits that the wearing of the uniform, the receipt of the further promotion to Obergruppenfuehrer, and the actions against Bohemia and Moravia must be considered when the defendant's submission is examined.

He then says that his appointment as Foreign Minister was by Reichs-president von Hindenburg.

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