The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Fifty-Fourth Day: Thursday, 13th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[DR. STEINBAUER continues his direct examination of Dr. Guido Schmidt]

[Page 202]

Q. He became Minister of the Interior and Police Minister, and went to Hitler in Berlin. Did he report to Schuschnigg the contents of his first talk with Adolf Hitler?

A. I do not know, but I do know of individual statements by State Secretary Zernatto, the head of the Fatherland Front, from which I can conclude that a conversation between Minister Zernatto and Seyss-Inquart at which this talk was mentioned must have taken place.

Q. It can therefore be assumed that, through Zernatto, Schuschnigg also learned of it?

A. Yes, I assume so.

Q. Now we will pass over events until we come to March. Schuschnigg planned a plebiscite. Do you know whether Schuschnigg informed Seyss-Inquart of this and discussed it with him?

A. Yes, Seyss-Inquart was informed of it. I learned that an agreement between Seyss-Inquart and the Chancellor was reached on about the 10th of March. The Chancellor told me that Seyss-Inquart had declared himself willing to speak on the radio in favour of the election.

Q. When Glaise Horstenau reported that there was a threat of invasion, did you, in your capacity as Foreign Minister, inform the foreign powers of this?

A. Yes. I did not receive a direct report from Glaise Horstenau. I learned of the critical situation only from the ultimatum which demanded the cancellation of the plebiscite planned by the Chancellor on the 13th March. From then on, there was constant contact during the 11th March with the diplomatic corps in Vienna, and later, during the hours which followed, with our foreign representatives also.

Q. Then, the demands of the German Reich followed closely upon one another. Especially, the demand was made that Schuschnigg should resign. The ministers were assembled, and a member of the government is said to have told Seyss-Inquart the following:

[Page 203]

"We now see clearly that the Reich is putting an end to Austria. It would be best for Seyss-Inquart to take over the office of Chancellor so that the transition may at least be bearable."
Do you remember such a statement?

A. No. Only later did I hear of a statement by Minister Glaise Horstenau which contained this request to Seyss-Inquart.

Q. Did you have the impression that with the farewell speech of Schuschnigg, the Fatherland Front which was directed by him had also collapsed?

A. I believe the question does not quite fit the situation. The resignation of the Chancellor was demanded by ultimatum, and finally the State itself was taken over so that the Fatherland Front no longer existed. With the entry of the German troops, National Socialism had become a reality and developments showed that it did not permit the Fatherland Front to live any longer.

Q. Seyss-Inquart was then appointed Chancellor. He set up his cabinet, and you, witness, were proposed as Foreign Minister, is that correct?

A. That is correct. I refused. I was requested again and I refused again, and I was asked to give my reasons. Seyss-Inquart told me that he intended to keep Austria independent as long as possible, but he was afraid that with his government, which had a National Socialist majority, he would encounter difficulties in the West. Therefore, he wanted to retain my diplomatic experience and connections for the government. He added that he intended to create a broader platform for this government by calling in positive Austrian representatives.

Q. Did you find the names of such positive Austrians on the list of ministers?

A. There were names of men like these. I have puzzled about it myself, but I cannot recall any individual names with any certainty.

Q. Do you know why another list of ministers was drawn up, which was the final list?

A. In the evening State Secretary Keppler arrived from Berlin, and, as I learned later, he rejected me, and others, too, I believe. I think I can remember one name. I believe that he suggested at the request of Berlin that Weber should take over the foreign ministry. Thus this list was discarded and Seyss-Inquart no longer tried to dissuade me to go back on my decision.

Q. Do you believe that Seyss-Inquart had the intention of keeping Austria independent, even under National Socialist leadership?

A. As a witness, I can only say what I know. Opinions are very difficult to express. I have stated what he told me.

DR. STEINBAUER: I have no further questions to put to this witness.

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. According to a statement by the American Ambassador in Vienna at that time, Mr. Messersmith, Herr von Papen, at the beginning of his activity in Vienna, is said to have stated that his real task in Vienna was the economic and political incorporation of South East Europe by Germany, and that South East Europe was the natural hinterland of Germany.

Did you, witness, ever hear of such a statement?

A. No. In view of the close contact which I had already with Mr. Messersmith before my appointment as a member of the government, and especially later, I would probably have heard of it. I assume, however, that no special significance was attached to this question at the time, because in first visits between diplomats, as a rule, a tour d'horizon is usually made and questions are discussed which interest both countries, that is, general political questions. Nor did I observe later that a South East Europe policy was being carried on from the German Legation.

Q. According to Mr. Messersmith, Herr von Papen is supposed to have said at that time that he was working to weaken and undermine the Austrian Government. Do you believe that Herr von Papen made such a statement, and, what is more important, did he carry out such a policy?

[Page 204]

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, Dr. Kubuschok, you cannot ask him whether he believes that a certain statement was made or not. That is pure speculation, it is not the subject of evidence. Therefore, that question must be withdrawn, and the answer not given to it, and it will be struck out.



Q. I will not ask the witness this: Did the witness Messersmith report such a statement by Herr von Papen to you?

A. No.

Q. Did the Austrian Government consider it advisable and necessary to normalise relations with the Reich by an agreement in July 1936?

A. Yes. I have already explained the reasons for conducting a realistic policy which was of an economic nature and based on foreign policy.

Q. In these and in later negotiations, did the internal political situation, particularly the settlement of the Party question, also have a part in deciding this?

A. Of course, it was the task of the government to ease inner political tension. The Chancellor had to try to find a way out of the difficult situation which he had inherited from Dollfuss, by liquidating the inner political fronts.

Q. Do you believe that Herr von Papen concluded the July 1936 Agreement with treacherous intent?

A. No, I have no reason to disbelieve that he considered this agreement a serious attempt to create a modus vivendi between Austria and the Reich. The fact that it resulted in a modus mali vivendi does not alter this.

Q. Did the Germans complain that after the Agreement of the 11th July, 1936, there was no essential change in the inner political course of the Austrian Government?

A. Yes, many reproaches were made, and thus we come to the last and the real cause of the conflict with the Reich. The struggle against National Socialism within the country in the interests of maintaining the independence of the country and, on the basis of the Agreement of the 11th July the co-operation with the German Reich - the leaders of which were National Socialists - these were the two imperative demands which, after a time, the Austrian Government found to be irreconcilable. This also explains the difficulties encountered by all persons entrusted with carrying out this Agreement in Vienna, including the German Minister.

Q. As a result of these conditions, particularly those arising out of the July Agreement, were questions of internal policy, such as questions of policy and personnel of the so-called national opposition, the subject of discussions between the Chancellor and Herr von Papen?

A. The situation as just described shows that such discussions were unavoidable, and talks on the internal political situation also took place between the Chancellor and the German Minister, as well as with the Italian Minister - in a general way that is not unusual - I know of no diplomatic memoirs which do not contain such entries. The Chancellor would never have tolerated any interference of any kind. In questions of personnel, Schuschnigg was especially reticent, because if I may say so, he was afraid of "Trojan horses".

That, more or less, represents the situation which was discussed in talks between the Chancellor and the German Minister.

Q. Did Herr von Papen make it clear that he was opposed to the methods of the illegal party?

A. Yes. According to the information received by the government, Papen opposed the leaders of the illegal party - that is, Leopold, in particular. This was doubtless due to fundamental differences, differing political ideas and differing political methods which von Papen on the one hand and the leaders of the illegal party on the other hand were determined to pursue.

Q. Did Herr von Papen, on the basis of the July Agreement, ever adopt an aggressive attitude in Austrian foreign policy?

[Page 205]

A. There existed between Austria and the Reich, not only in cultural and internal political relations, but also in the field of foreign policy, unbridgeable differences of opinion. I will only mention the demand of the Reich that Austria should leave the League of Nations, which we rejected by pointing to the fact that Austria, by reason of her geographical position and her history, had a continental mission, and also to the loans received from the League of Nations. A second point was Austria's attitude -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Is this at all answering the questions that you have put to him?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: He is introducing the answer to the question.

THE PRESIDENT: Try and get on with the answer to it, will you? Get the witness on to the answer, rather than the introduction.


Q. I should like to know whether Herr von Papen took advantage of the opportunities for an aggressive intervention in Austrian foreign policy in the individual cases mentioned by you.

A. I wanted to say that in spite of the deeply rooted differences, this did not occur, and that an Ambassador with a more radical point of view would certainly have had the opportunity and the occasion to adopt a more severe attitude towards Austria. There was not a single case where we reached an agreement with the German Reich on a joint foreign policy. Von Papen did remind us of that, but that was all. As for aggression, or aggressive activities, I cannot say anything about this.

Q. On the contrary, did Herr von Papen act on occasion as mediator? I would like to recall the Pinkafeld case.

A. The Pinkafeld flag-incident is an example of von Papen's activity as mediator. In itself it was a minor incident, but it led to threats of invasion by Hitler. Von Papen was called to Berlin, and had a great deal of difficulty in calming down the fury of Hitler, who, as I said, threatened to invade Austria.

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Witness, if it is convenient to you, it would be more convenient to the Tribunal if you spoke a little faster.

A. He succeeded in settling the matter and there were no consequences.


Q. He settled the matter. Did Herr von Papen speak to you about the reasons for his being recalled on the 4th of February, 1938?

A. On the occasion of a visit on the 5th, he expressed his astonishment - and I might say his anger - at his being recalled, which in his opinion and also in our opinion was due to the events of the 4th of February, 1938, the dismissal of General Fritsch and of thirty other generals, and the dismissal of von Neurath. He thought that Austria would not be unaffected either, especially in view of the man who had been proposed to succeed him. At that time, Burckel or Consul General Kriebel was proposed. That was approximately what von Papen said to me and I believe also to the Chancellor.

Q. Then he believed and feared that his successor would adopt a more severe policy against Austria?

A. That conclusion was inevitable in view of the two persons just mentioned.

Q. Did von Papen take part in the pressure exerted on you and Schuschnigg in the Berchtesgaden talks?

A. No, he did not.

Q. On the contrary, did he not, in so far as he had any opportunity of taking part in the negotiations, attempt to tone down Hitler's demands?

A. In view of the atmosphere of violence which prevailed and the programme of demands which was presented, this was difficult. I believe that he, like many others who were present, endeavoured to restore calm, and thus enable the negotiations to proceed in a reasonable atmosphere.

[Page 206]

Q. In the course of the negotiations, a number of concessions was made. Do you believe that von Papen's attitude and his part in these negotiations had a restraining effect, and led to you obtaining these practical results?

A. His attitude on the whole was no doubt mediatory. One cannot speak of success at Berchtesgaden so far as the result is concerned; but that was not von Papen's fault.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, do you think you will be able to finish in a few moments?



Q. In order to answer my question I believe it would be better if you would not consider the final result of Berchtesgaden but rather the fact that Hitler had presented to you a very big programme of demands going far beyond the final results, and if you would consider that actually some points which were of great importance to you were changed in the course of the negotiations.

A. As far as there was any help coming from the other side, it came from von Papen.

Q. Do you perhaps recall that the Hitler-Schuschnigg negotiations were especially violent because Hitler was trying to win Schuschnigg over to his German attitude and von Papen came to Schuschnigg's aid and thereby put Schuschnigg in a better position to negotiate than at the beginning.

A. I was not present for the first hour or two of the talk. I cannot answer the question.

Q. My last question is this: Did Herr von Papen, after the 26th February, the day on which he took leave of the Austrian President, still carry on any official activity in Vienna?

A. No; the Vienna Embassy was administered by the charge d'affaires, Embassy Counsellor von Stein, who made the two official demarches of the Reich in the afternoon of the 9th or the morning of the 10th against the plebiscite planned by Schuschnigg. Von Stein, together with General Muff and State Secretary Keppler, also handed to the Austrian President the ultimatum demanding the resignation of Chancellor Schuschnigg. This shows that Ambassador von Papen was no longer active.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will recess until a quarter past two.

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