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-Fifth Day: Friday, 14th June, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[Page 256]

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, but since we are concerned with a motion which applies to procedure and which applies to a ruling announced orally, I believe I am justified in putting my motion in this manner.

THE PRESIDENT: No, the Tribunal does not think so. The Tribunal would wish to have your motion in writing in accordance with the rule of the Tribunal.

Now the Tribunal will continue with the case against the defendant von Papen, which is I believe the next.

DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for the defendant von Papen): I am beginning with my presentation of evidence on behalf of my client, von Papen, by calling the defendant von Papen as a witness.

FRANZ VON PAPEN, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Franz von Papen.

Q. Will you repeat the oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

[Page 257]



Q. Please give the High Tribunal, briefly, a picture of your life, especially from the time you entered politics.

A. In order to describe my life briefly, I shall emphasize only such points as are essential for the High Tribunal to form a judgement of my personality and how they influenced my life and my political attitude and opinion.

I was born on soil which has been in the possession of my family for nine hundred years. I grew up with conservative principles which link a man most closely to his own folk and his native soil, and as my family has always been a strong supporter of the Church, I of course grew up in this tradition as well.

As the second son I was destined for a military career. At the age of eighteen I became a lieutenant in a cavalry regiment and I went -

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think you gave us the date of your birth.


Q. Please give the date of your birth.

A. The date of my birth is the 29th of October, 1879.

THE PRESIDENT: You have told us you joined a cavalry regiment at the age of eighteen.

A. Important for my development -

DR. KUBUSCHOK: There may be an error in translation. The defendant entered it at the age of eighteen, not in 1918, but at the age of eighteen.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I said so.

A. Important for my development was my marriage with the daughter of a Saar industrialist, Geheimrat von Bock. The relatives of this family brought me into contact with many French and Belgian families, and in this way I acquired an intimate knowledge of the spiritual and cultural factor of these neighbourings countries, which made a very strong impression on me at the time. From that time on, that is from 1905, I have been convinced of how wrong a certain political attitude can be, namely, that France and Germany should be condemned to consider themselves eternal enemies. I felt how much these two peoples had to offer each other on a mutual basis, provided their peaceful development was not disturbed.

In the years that followed I graduated from the Kriegsakademie (War Academy), and in 1913, after training for five years, I was taken into the General Staff. At the end of 1913, at the command of His Imperial Majesty, I was appointed Military Attache in Washington and in Mexico. In this capacity, in the summer of 1914, I accompanied the U.S.A. Expeditionary Corps, which was dispatched to Vera Cruz as a result of the incident at Tampico. In Mexico, I was surprised by the outbreak of the First World War. Until the end of 1915 I remained at my post in Washington.

This period is of comprehensive significance to my political life. Our war, which was carried on with legal methods against the unilateral supplying of our enemies with war materials, led to heated polemics and propaganda. This propaganda, which was fostered by the enemy, tried by all means to cast suspicion upon the military attaches of Germany and to accuse them of illegal acts and especially of having organized acts of sabotage.

At the end of 1915 I left the United States. I regret to say that I never tried to rectify and correct this false propaganda, but this propaganda followed me until the '30s, and even until to-day, and it impressed its stamp upon me. In order to cite just one example, even after 1931, the Lehigh Valley Company stated before the Mixed Claims Commission. that their claim of $50,000,000 against the German Reich was justified, since I, the German Military Attache, had caused an explosion which had taken place in the year 1917, two years after I had left the United States.

[Page 258]

I am just mentioning this fact, Mr. President, since this propaganda honoured me with titles such as "master spy," "chief plotter," and other names; for this propaganda was the background for judging my personality, as I found out in 1932 when I entered public life.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE MARSHAL: If it please the Tribunal, the report is made that the defendants Funk and Speer are absent.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Kubuschok.




Q. Witness, we stopped when you were talking about the formation of public opinion concerning you personally. Please continue telling us of your career.

A. I had spoken about the propaganda about myself which was carried on in the United States at the time of the First World War. No effort was in fact ever made to investigate whether this judgement was true or false. What I was able to accomplish in those years, that is that I opposed sabotage, that I fought against submarine warfare, has never become known.

This propaganda was public defamation, and it reached its height in 1941 in a pamphlet published in New York, with the intriguing title The Devil in the Top Hat. It repeats all these fairy tales without criticism and adds new ones.

Thus a so-called public opinion was formed about me which, I believe, is a completely distorted picture of my character, my opinion, and, above all, my motives in the time from 1932 to 1945.

I ask the Tribunal to keep in mind these psychological associations, as I attempt to give now a true picture of my thoughts and my acts.

After returning to Germany in 1916 I did my duty as a soldier, as a battalion commander, and as a General Staff Officer in the war in France. In 1917 I became Chief of the Operational Section of Army Group Falkenhayn in Turkey. When Falkenhayn was recalled in 1918 I became Chief of the General Staff of the Fourth Turkish Army until the armistice.

Perhaps I may recall briefly - after so many bad things have been said about me by the world - an episode which shows that I was able to do something useful for the history of humanity. On 8th December, 1918, after a hard struggle with the German and Turkish headquarters, I succeeded in getting Falkenhayn to evacuate Jerusalem. Because of this decision the city was not shelled and not destroyed by the British army.

THE PRESIDENT: The translation came through to me, I thought, the 8th of December, 1918. That must have been 1917.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: NO, 1918, my Lord, 1918.

THE WITNESS: 8th December, 1918.

When in November, 1918, I was negotiating with Ataturk about the evacuation of the German troops, we received the news of the collapse of the German armies and the abdication of the German Kaiser. This fact meant for me not only the loss of the war. A whole world had collapsed for me. The German Reich had collapsed after a thousand years of development and everything that we had believed in had been plunged into an unforeseeable future. At this juncture I decided to accept the inevitable.

After my return to Germany I asked for and was granted my release from the army. I went back to my home where I lived on a modest agricultural estate: There I was on traditional soil and devoted myself to home tasks. Before long my farmer friends entrusted me with the administration of their community

[Page 259]

affairs. They elected me honorary mayor and in 1923 they sent me to the Prussian Parliament.

When I was requested to do this I decided not to join the Right, the German National Party, but the centre party, the Zentrum. This decision was influenced by my conviction that in this party I would be able to do much more for adjustments in the social sphere than amongst the conservatives. At the same time this party represented the principles of a Christian concept of the State.

The eight years in which I belonged to Parliament were filled with struggles for the internal recovery and strengthening of the German Republic. In the Zentrum Party I represented the conservative ideas of my agricultural electors. I endeavoured to make this party, which in Prussia had formed a coalition with the Left, form a coalition with the Right also. Thus, I wanted to help create an outlet for the tensions out of which National Socialism was really born. Also, into the same period fall my efforts to remove the discriminations against Germany through the numerous terms of the Versailles Treaty and that by way of reaching a better understanding with the French people. I became a member of the German-French Study Committee, a committee which, founded by the Luxemburg industrialist Meirisch, comprised a large number of outstanding men of both countries. Close relations and conversations also linked me with the Veterans' organizations of both countries, on the French side with the well-known leader of the "Gueules Cassees," Colonel Piccat. I took an active part at the congresses of German-French Catholic circles which took place in Paris and Berlin. All these efforts had as their aim to put the European peace on the basis of a deeper knowledge and closer co-operation of our two countries.

This realization of mine was strengthened further when I had moved to the Saar in 1929, which at that time was, as is well known, under international control. When in 1929 the Young Plan was accepted by Germany I asked Herr Stresemann to arrange with M. Briand a settlement of the Saar question without plebiscite because I was always of the opinion that a candid solution of this thorny question by both sides would leave less resentment and more solidity than a decision brought about by an election campaign carried on with passion on both sides. Unfortunately, this did not come about.

Then in 1930 the great economic world crisis set in which embraced victors and vanquished alike. Germany's new democratic regime was not able to cope with such a burden, and under the ever increasing economic pressure and increasing internal tension the Papen Cabinet was formed in the spring of 1932. Here starts the political development which I am pleased to be able to account for before this Tribunal. I should like to add a request to the Tribunal. The Tribunal has ruled that the defendants have to be brief because the defendant Reichsmarschall Goering has completely presented the history of National Socialism. I ask that it be taken into consideration that I am not speaking here for National Socialism. My defence will be that of the other Germany.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: In questioning the witness it will be necessary to go into the details of the events and the activities of the witness as Reich Chancellor in the year 1932. The Indictment covers the time from 1st June, 1932, the date of the appointment of Herr von Papen as Reich Chancellor. The Indictment sees in the conduct of his official activity as Reich Chancellor the preparation for Hitler's government.

The defence will set forth that the Papen government consistently fought for a new programme entirely independent of the ideas of National Socialism, a programme representing Papen's own basic political ideas, to which he remained loyal in the following period also. As the Indictment -

THE PRESIDENT: It is not proper for a counsel to make a statement of that sort. You must elicit the evidence from the witness by questions, and the questions ought to be questions - which are not leading questions - which do not suggest the answers. You are now telling us what the witness is going to say. We want to hear it from the witness.

[Page 260]

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Mr. President, I only wanted to point out that this period of time before 1933 must also be discussed, and I wish to ask for your indulgence. We shall -

THE PRESIDENT: We have not attempted to stop you from giving the evidence from eliciting the evidence. Ask the witness. But you must not state the facts yourself.


Q. Witness, will you explain to the Tribunal what the situation was in Germany when Hindenburg called upon you on 1st June, 1932, to form a cabinet?

A. Before I answer this question will you please permit me, as one of the last Chancellors of the Reich, to make a brief statement on the government formed by me? If and to what extent the Charter of the Tribunal, in our opinion, is compatible with the sovereignty of the Reich and its different governments will later be expounded by one of the other counsel.

When the prosecution deals with my activity as Reich Chancellor in 1932, I assume that this is done in order to get a clear, historically accurate picture of the developments and to form a judgement on my character as a whole. For this reason I will comment on this part of the accusation.

However, I must state here emphatically that this cabinet of 1932 governed to the best of its knowledge and ability under the constitution and under the emergency powers of the President, at a time of a most severe internal economic depression.

It is an historical fact that the activity of my cabinet would not justify the slightest suspicion of a crime in the meaning of the Charter. I believe I must make this statement, my Lord, to uphold the integrity of my ministerial colleagues, and above all the integrity of the President, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, the last great historical figure of Germany.

As to your question: Dr. Bruning, my predecessor in office, was highly esteemed by all of us and had been welcomed with great expectations. During his period of office occurred the great economic crisis, the customs, political blockades by other countries, production and trade almost completely at a standstill, no foreign currency for the procurement of necessary raw materials, increasing unemployment, youth out on the streets, and the economic world depression leading to bankruptcy of the banks. Government was possible only through emergency decrees; that is, by one-sided legislative acts of the President. Support of the unemployed empties the treasury, is unproductive, and is no solution. As a result of the great unemployment, the radical parties were increasing. The political splitting up of the German people reached its height. In the last Reichstag election, there were thirty-two parties.

After the war, we had all hoped that we might be able to build up an orderly democracy in Germany. The English democracy was our model, but the Weimar Constitution had given the German people an abundance of rights which did not correspond to its political maturity. In 1932 it had long been clear that the Weimar Constitution made the mistake of giving the government too little authority. I remind you that the forming of governments often took weeks because all parties wanted to participate.

In Prussia, the Social Democrats had ruled since 1919. They shared with the Zentrum in filling political offices in Prussia. The dualism between Prussia, the greatest of the provinces, and the Reich was constantly increasing. My wish, that Bruning should return to the old construction of Bismarck, to be Reich Chancellor and at the same time Minister President of Prussia, in order to co-ordinate the policy of this greatest province with that of the Reich, was rejected by Bruning .

In all these years, in the last years, nothing was done to restrain the ever-increasing National Socialist movement, that is to direct it into a politically responsible course.

[Page 261]

The entire political confusion and the realization that something had to be done in order to make it possible for the Reich Government to govern and to make it more independent brought Hindenburg to the decision to appoint a cabinet independent of the parties, directed by experts. The members of this cabinet of mine were all experts in their fields. Von Neurath was an old diplomat, the Minister of the Interior, Gail, was an old administrative official, the Agricultural Minister was general director of great agricultural societies, the Finance Minister was formerly Ministerial Director in his ministry, the Railway Director, Elz, had been president of the board of directors of a railway, and so forth.

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