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-Sixth Day: Monday, 17th June, 1946
(Part 5 of 8)

[Page 291 ]


Q. What were the reasons for and what was your attitude regarding Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations?

[Franz von Papen] A. The withdrawal from the League of Nations was a question on which there could be many differences of opinion. I myself was in favour of remaining in the League of Nations, and I remember that on the day before Hitler decided on this step, I myself travelled to Munich in an effort to persuade him to remain a member of the League. I was of the opinion that we would have gained much by remaining in the League, where we had many good connections dating from the time of Stresemann. Nevertheless, if we left the League it was perhaps a tactical question in so far as we might then hope that direct negotiations with the major Powers would be more promising. Besides, Herr von Neurath's discussion with Ambassador Bullitt, which is Document L-150, shows - Herr von Neurath says in that document that Germany had proposed a reorganised League of Nations, which she would rejoin.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I refer to Lersner's interrogatory, Document 93. In question No. 5, the witness speaks of von Papen's journey to Munich; this is Page 213, Document 93.

Mr. President, I come now to a rather more lengthy question; may I ask therefore whether this would be a suitable moment for a recess?

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)



DR. KUBUSCHOK: Before the recess, I was questioned about the documents on the governmental proclamation of 1st March, 1933, and of 23rd March, 1933 Excerpts from the governmental proclamation of 1st March, 1933, are contained in Document 12, Page 53. This is only a short extract. I shall submit the proclamation in its entirety later.

The proclamation of 23rd March, 1933, in Document 12, Pages 56 to 58, has been submitted, also in extract form. This proclamation has already been submitted in full under Exhibit USA 568.

Q. On 2nd November, 1933, in a speech in Essen, you stated your opinion in connection with the forthcoming plebiscite on the withdrawal from the League of Nations, and that you approved of the Government's policy. The prosecution has drawn conclusions from this speech which are unfavourable to you.

What reasons caused you to make this speech at that time?

A. Our withdrawal from the League of Nations was an extraordinarily important decision of foreign policy. We wished to emphasize to the world that this withdrawal was not to be construed as a change in our methods of foreign policy. Therefore, Hindenburg and Hitler in public statements emphasized that the German people should decide by means of a plebiscite the question of whether a withdrawal from the League of Nations would be in the exclusive interests of peace and our equality of rights.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should like to refer to Document 60, Page 167, and Documents 61 and 62, on Pages 147 to 152 of the Document Book. These are the statements made by Hitler, by the Reich Government, and by Hindenburg, in

[Page 292]

which is emphasized that there was no change in objective attitude but only a change in methods for obtaining the objectives.


Q. At that time you were Reich Commissioner for the return of the Saar. What policy did you follow in connection with the Saar question?

A. As far as the Saar question was concerned, I always worked on the basis of a friendly understanding with France, and with a view to finding a solution for the Saar problem without recourse to a plebiscite. Our reasons for not wanting this plebiscite were not in any way self-interested, for the plebiscite was at all times certain to be in favour of Germany. My proposal was rather a sacrifice willingly made in the interest of understanding; and at the same time, I proposed that France should receive compensation to the amount of 900 million francs for the return of the Saar mines. And I should like to repeat that even after our withdrawal from the League of Nations, my commissioner for Saar affairs, Freiherr von Lersner, always negotiated with representatives of the League of Nations in attempts to obtain a friendly settlement of the Saar problem. In the summer of 1934, my commissioner negotiated with the French Foreign Minister Bardout on this question.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should like to refer to Document 59, Page 145. This document contains the published comments of the witness with regard to the Saar problem. Freiherr von Lersner, in his interrogatory (Document 93, Page 212) in reply to question 3 defined his attitude on this question of the Saar.

Q. Were there any signs that, after leaving the League of Nations, this expressed peaceful policy was just a policy of expediency and that a policy of aggression was being planned for the more remote future?

A. Not at all. Leaving the League of Nations was for us simply a change in method. And at that time we were conducting direct negotiations with the major Powers. The fact that we were pursuing a policy of peace was something I emphasized in many public statements. And in this connection I should like to refer to Document 56, which will be submitted by my counsel.


Document 56, Page 44, contains a speech made by the witness at Kottbus on 21st January, 1934. I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of this document.

Q. Did you know of any rearmament measures which might have led to the expectation of an aggressive policy in the future?

A. It seems to me that the proceedings so far conducted before this Tribunal have shown clearly that the actual rearmament did not begin until much later. If Hitler, in fact, did take steps to rearm in 1933 or 1934, then he discussed these measures personally with the Defence Minister and the Air Minister. In any event, I was never concerned with such measures. Apart from that, it has already been ascertained here that this much-talked-of Reich Defence Committee; in 1933 and 1934, was purely a committee of experts under the direction of a lieutenant-colonel.

Q. A short time ago you mentioned the safeguards created when the Hitler Government was formed, in order to minimise the influence of the Party. How did Hitler's position and the influence of the NSDAP develop in the course of the year 1933 and at the beginning of 1934?

A. A confidential relationship gradually developed between Hitler and Hindenburg.

This led to the end of the joint report, which was agreed upon at that time. The influence exerted by Hitler on Reichswehrminister Blomberg was a very decisive factor in this development. Even at that time, in 1933, Hitler tried to exert a decisive influence on the army. He wanted to have the then General von Hammerstein removed and replaced by General von Reichenau, who at that time passed for a friend of the Party. At that time I persuaded the Reich President not to grant Hitler's wish in this connection and advised him to take General von Fritsch.

[Page 293]

Another reason for this development was the incorporation of the "Stahlhelm," that is, a Rightist conservative group, with the SA of the NSDAP. Then there were new cabinet members who were selected from the Party. Hugenberg, the leader of the conservative Right, left the cabinet and the two important ministries which he filled, the Ministries of Economics and Agriculture, were occupied by National Socialists. A decisive psychological factor, as I have already mentioned, was the election results of 5th March. For the governments of all the Under had National Socialist majorities, and these local governments exerted constant pressure on Hitler. Hitler, owing to the growing strength of his Party, became more and more independent and thus changed in an ever increasing degree from a coalition partner ready for compromise into an autocrat intolerant of compromise.

Q. I should like to refer to the affidavit of the former Minister Hugenberg, Document 88, Pages 196 to 198 in the Document Book. I should further like to refer to Document 13, Pages 59 to 61 in the Document Book, an affidavit by Dr. Conrad Josten.

On what was your position as Vice-Chancellor based?

A. As Vice-Chancellor it was intended that I should be the Reich Chancellor's deputy, but without a department of my own. It very soon became apparent that the position of deputy was quite impossible, as Hitler dealt with every question himself. The fact that I had no department of my own weakened my position, for this position was now based upon nothing but the confidence of Hindenburg, a confidence which decreased proportionately with the growth of Hitler's importance.

Q. What was the constitutional basis of Hitler's position in the cabinet?

A. The position of the Reich Chancellor in the cabinet is constitutionally provided for in Article 56 of the Constitution of the Reich. This article says:

"The Reich Chancellor will lay down the general principles of policy and will be responsible for them to the Reichstag. If the policy of a department's minister is not in accordance with these principles laid down by the Reich Chancellor, no decision will be made by the cabinet on a majority ruling, but the Reich Chancellor alone will decide the point in question. " And under Article 58 of the Constitution, it says: "The Reich Chancellor cannot be outvoted by the cabinet in cases where his policy is opposed."
DR. KUBUSCHOK: In connection with this question which has so far been incorrectly submitted in the evidence taken, I should like to refer to the leading commentary on the Weimar Constitution by Gerhard Anschutz, Document 22, Pages 80 and 81 of the Document Book.

I should like to refer to Page 81, Note (4) to Article 56. This note states clearly that if differences of opinion should arise as to the application of the basic principles of the policy, the Reich Chancellor alone will decide, and that in these basic problems, no vote will be taken and no majority decision made by the cabinet.


Q. What conclusions did you think must be drawn from this development of affairs?

A. In the middle of the year 1934 the internal tension in Germany grew more and more serious. The situation was such that the concessions, which we as partners of the coalition had made, did not lead to any definite internal agreement but were considered by the Party as being only the beginning of a new revolutionary movement. This was quite obviously a divergence from the coalition pact concluded on 30th January. The many objections which I made in the cabinet had no success. Then, since there was no possibility in the cabinet of forcing the Reich Chancellor to change his policy, as we have just shown from the Constitution, the only possibilities left were a resignation or a public statement. If I resigned, I should no longer be in a position to speak. Therefore, I decided to speak at once, and publicly, and I decided to appeal on principle in this matter to the German people. If, as the prosecution asserts, I had been an opportunist, I would have kept silent and remained in office, or I would have accepted another office. But

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now I decided to put my case before the public and to shoulder all the consequences that might follow.

Q. On 17th June, 1934, you made that speech at Marburg. What did you expect to accomplish with this speech?

A. In this speech I brought up for discussion and placed before Hitler for decision all those points which were essential for the maintenance of a reasonable policy in Germany. In this speech I opposed the demand of a certain group or party for a revolutionary or national monopoly. I opposed the coercion and abuse of others. I opposed anti-Christian endeavours and totalitarian encroachment on religious domain. I opposed the suppression of all criticism. I opposed the abuse and regimentation of the spirit. I opposed violation of fundamental rights; inequality before the law, and the Byzantine principles followed by the Party. It was clear to me that if I succeeded, even at one point only, in piercing the Nazi ring, we could force order into the system and restore, for instance, freedom of thought and speech.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: This speech may be found in Document 11, Page 40. The prosecution has already stressed its significance. First of all, I may say that the English text contains a misprint. The date is not 7th July, as appears in the translation, but 17th June. Because of the basic significance of this speech, the critical nature of which is unique in German history since 1933, I am going to read a few passages from it.

I am starting at Page 41, about the middle of the page:

"We know that rumours and whispering propaganda must be brought out from the darkness where they have taken refuge. Frank and manly discussion is better for the German people than, for instance, a muzzled Press, described by the Minister for Propaganda as no longer having a face. This deficiency undoubtedly exists. The function of the Press should be to inform the government where deficiencies have crept in, where corruption has settled down, where grave mistakes have been committed, where incapable men are in the wrong places, where offences are committed against the spirit of the German Revolution. An anonymous or secret information service, however well organized it may be, can never be a satisfactory substitute for a free and untramelled Press. For the newspaper editor is responsible to the law and to his conscience, whereas anonymous news sources are not subject to control and are exposed to the danger of Byzantinism. When, therefore, the proper organs of public opinion do not shed sufficient light into the mysterious darkness, which at present seems to have fallen upon the German public, the statesman himself must intervene and call matters by their right names."
Then on Page 42, just below the middle of the page:
"It is a matter of historical truth that the necessity for a fundamental change of system was recognized and urged even by those who shunned the path of revolution through an organized party. A claim for nationalist monopoly by a limited group, therefore, seems to be an exaggerated one .... "
And now Page 43, a sentence from approximately the middle of the page:
"All of life cannot be organized; otherwise it becomes mechanised. The State is organization; life is growth."
And on Page 45, just a little beyond the centre of the page:
"Domination by a single party replacing the majority party system, which rightly has disappeared, appears to me historically as a transitional stage, justified only as long as the safeguarding of the new political change is necessary and until the new process of personal selection begins to function."
As to the religious question, the witness states his view on Page 46, near the middle of the page:
"But one should not confuse the religious State which is based upon an active belief in God with a secular State in which earthly values replace such belief and are given religious honours."

[Page 295]

Then, about five lines following:
"Certainly, the outward respect for religious belief is an improvement on the disrespectful attitude produced by a degenerate rationalism. But we should not forget that real religion means being bound to God and not to substitutes such as have been introduced into the consciousness of nations, especially by Karl Marx's materialistic conception of history. If wide circles of people, from this same viewpoint of the totalitarian State and the complete amalgamation of the nation, demand a uniform religious foundation, they should not forget that we should be happy to have such a foundation in the Christian faith."
Then, the third last line on this page:
"It is my conviction that the Christian doctrine clearly represents the religious form of all Occidental thinking and that, with the re-awakening of religious forces, the German people also will be permeated anew by the Christian spirit, a spirit the profundity of which is almost forgotten by a humanity that has lived through the nineteenth century. A struggle is coming for the decision as to whether the new Reich of the Germans will be Christian or is to be lost in sectarianism and half-religious materialism."

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