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 7 of 8)

[Page 299]


Q. When did Hitler approach you on the subject of going to Vienna as Ambassador Extraordinary?

[Franz von Papen] A. It was on the day of the murder of Dollfuss, 25th July, 1934.

THE PRESIDENT: Can you remind me, Dr. Kubuschok, whether any question was put to the witness Lammers about this offer?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes, a question was put to the witness Lammers. The witness Lammers was asked about it when he was examined.

THE PRESIDENT: What did he say?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: He said that Papen had refused.


THE WITNESS: On 25th July, the day of the murder of Dollfuss, Hitler rang me up in the middle of the night, and asked me to go to Vienna at once as his Ambassador. I asked: "What gave you this odd idea?" He informed me of the murder of Dollfuss, of which I had not yet heard, and said: "It is absolutely essential that someone who knows the conditions there should take over affairs at once." I replied that I could not possibly give my decision on such a step over the telephone, whereupon he asked me to come to Bayreuth at once to discuss it.

Q. How did these negotiations in Bayreuth turn out? Did you state your own terms for accepting the appointment?

A. In the discussion in Bayreuth, Hitler put it to me that I was the only available person who could re-establish a favourable situation in Austria, because, of course, Hitler knew my attitude towards that problem, from the numerous protests I had raised in the cabinet against Austria's treatment. He also knew that I had been a friend of the murdered Dr. Dollfuss and that I knew von Schuschnigg. I stated my conditions and these conditions were: The immediate recall of the Party Gauleiter, Herr Habicht, who was in Austria by Hitler's order. Hitler was of the opinion that if he did this it would amount to an admission of guilt.

BY THE PRESIDENT: Gauleiter of where?


THE PRESIDENT: I thought you said that was his name. I wanted to know what Gau he was the Gauleiter of.

THE WITNESS: Perhaps "Gauleiter" is the wrong word. He had been sent to Austria by Hitler as a liaison man, to exert influence on the affairs of the Austrian National Socialists.


Q. Witness, perhaps you ought to point out that his title was "Landesleiter," which probably corresponds to the title "Gauleiter" in Germany.

A. He was Landesleiter, which was the title given to people who directed the Party organization abroad. Hitler replied that if he recalled this man, it would look like a confession of complicity in the Dollfuss murder. I replied that the whole

[Page 300]

world was in any case convinced of the complicity of the Party or its organizations, generally speaking; and that as far as I was concerned, it was only important that those connections should be broken off forthwith. I further demanded an assurance in writing from Hitler that the German-Austrian policy of the future - what is generally termed the Anschluss policy - should move on a purely evolutionary level, that is to say, that recourse should not be taken to forcible measures and aggression. Hitler immediately ordered this man Habicht to be recalled and gave me a written assurance with reference to the second question. And finally, I said that I was prepared to take over the pacification programme in Austria, but only until normal and friendly relations had been re-established. This meant that later on in Austria I had the additional title of "Ambassador on a special mission."

Q. Witness, we have heard of your political break with Hitler after the speech at Marburg, your resignation from the cabinet and your actions on 30th June. I should now like you to give us your reasons for accepting that post in Austria in spite of the events already described.

A. My decision to go to Austria has been made the subject of a special charge by the prosecution. In order to understand this decision of mine you must be acquainted with German history and you must know that the Austrian problem was the central problem of German national policy. As Dr. Seyss-Inquart has discussed this problem at length, I can dismiss it quite briefly; and I need only add that the achievement of German unity, for which we had fought for three centuries, was considered by Germany herself to be the most significant and important target of our national policy. The events of 30th June had brought about the collapse of the coalition which I had formed on 30th January. It had been clearly established that I had failed to achieve my intentions and aims in home policy. After the Dollfuss murder, the danger existed that Germany would fail to achieve her main foreign political aim of accomplishing the desired unity. All this was in my mind when I weighed the very serious decision as to whether I should accede to Hitler's request. If he put a Party man in that post, then obviously all hope would be lost. If he appointed a diplomat from the Foreign Office, it could be assumed that that official would have no personal influence on Hitler. If, therefore, the situation was to be saved, it would have to be someone who was at least in a position to influence Hitler and, moreover, someone who, like myself, was independent and had his own political ideas. Today, just as at that time, I am fully aware that many of my friends did not understand the step I took and that they interpreted it as lack of character. But I hold the view that this is a question which the individual has to settle with his conscience, without regard to understanding or the lack of it; and my conscience told me that I must do everything to restore order in this one question at least.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: With reference to the subject of Austria generally, I call your attention mainly to the documentary material which has been submitted in the previous case. To supplement this, I will only refer to Document 64, Page 157, Document 65, Page 158, and Document 81, Page 178. This last document has already been presented in connection with the case of Seyss-Inquart. It refers to the views held by State Chancellor Dr. Renner on the Anschluss question. I should like only to quote the last four lines on Page 179:

"As a Social Democrat, and therefore as a champion of the right of self-determination of nations, as first Chancellor of the Austro-German Republic and former president of its peace delegations to St. Germain, I shall vote in the affirmative."
I have produced the document at this particular point in order to support the testimony of the defendant, who considered the Austro-German question from both points of view a fateful problem, and the fact that this leading statesman, Dr. Renner, even when placed in a difficult situation, expressed himself as in favour of Austro-German friendship, is clearly shown.

[Page 301]


Q. Witness, on 26th July Hitler wrote a letter to you confirming your appointment as Ambassador Extraordinary to Vienna. That letter has been mentioned by the prosecution. What is the explanation of the contents of that letter?

A. The contents of that letter can be explained very easily. If I was to have a chance of re-establishing normal and friendly relations; if I was to have a chance of creating a proper position for myself in relation to the Austrian Government, then after the events of 30th June a public statement of confidence had to be made. In that letter Hitler was to certify that my mission was one of pacification, and that he intended to disavow his terrorist methods. That is stated in the letter. And I find the prosecution's statement that this letter was a "masterpiece of deceit" quite impossible to understand.

Q. Mr. Messersmith, in his affidavit, Document 2385-PS, alleges that you pursued from Vienna a policy of aggression towards the States of South-eastern Europe and quotes as your personal statement, made on the occasion of the return visit he paid to you: " ... South-east Europe as far as Turkey constitutes the German hinterland, and I have been assigned to carry out the task of incorporating it in the Reich. Austria is the first country on this programme."

Did you make any such statement?

A. I took up my position in Vienna in the autumn of 1934, and one of the first colleagues whom I saw was Mr. Messersmith. I never received an assignment to pursue a policy such as Mr. Messersmith describes in his affidavit, and I never made any such statement to Mr. Messersmith.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: In this connection, I refer to Horthy's interrogatory, Document 76, Pages 172 and 173.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, before you turned to the Messersmith affidavit, you were speaking, or the defendant was speaking, of some letter. Is that letter a document which is before us?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes, the prosecution have already presented that letter. It is the letter written on the occasion of the defendant's appointment. It is Document 2799-PS.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, if your Lordship has the British Document Book II, it is Page 37.


DR. KUBUSCHOK: The witness has just dealt with the statement in the Messersmith affidavit, 2385-PS. The same question, namely the return visit paid to Papen by Mr. Messersmith, is treated in a further affidavit by Messersmith, Document 1760-PS.

I should like to point out that the wording of the statement referring to the influence of Germany on the States of South-east Europe differs considerably in Messersmith's two affidavits.

As I have already indicated in my previous question, Mr. Messersmith says in 2385-PS that Papen stated that he had been assigned to carry out the task of incorporating South-east Europe in the Reich. In contrast to that, the statement is worded very differently in 1760-PS. There Mr. Messersmith states that Papen said on that occasion that he had been ordered to see to it that the whole of Southeast Europe, up to the Turkish border, should be regarded as Germany's natural hinterland, and that German economic control over that entire area should be facilitated by his work; thus, in one affidavit, incorporation is mentioned and in the other the facilitation of economic control.

In connection with this latter much less strongly-worded affidavit, 1760-PS, I ask the witness whether he did at that time make such a statement, namely, that the whole of South-eastern Europe as far as the Turkish border was Germany's natural hinterland and that he had been called upon to facilitate German economic control throughout the entire area on Germany's behalf.

[Page 302]


Q. Did you make such a statement?

A. The actual remark I made to Mr. Messersmith is perhaps -

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE (Interposing): My Lord, I do not know whether it would be useful for the Tribunal to have the two references, the two passages. The passage in 2385- PS your Lordships will find in Document Book II-A, that is, the second Document Book, on Page 24 at the bottom of the page. The reference in 1760-PS is in Document Book II, Page 22, about one-third down the page.

A. (Continuing): My actual remark to Mr. Messersmith is perhaps not quite so far from my defence counsel's last quotation as the difference between Mr. Messersmith's two statements would seem to indicate. It is perfectly possible that we discussed the question of South-east Europe and I can well imagine pointing out to him that the economic and political questions of the South-eastern area were of great importance not only for Germany's policy, but also for Austria; for the expansion of our trade towards the Balkans was a perfectly legitimate target. I kept Berlin informed of everything that I learned in Vienna regarding the policy of the countries of the South-eastern area because naturally that was one of the functions of the Ambassador to Vienna. But except for that, I did nothing in the whole course of my work in Vienna which tallies in any way with what Mr. Messersmith alleges here.

Apart from that, may I say that it would be extremely foolish and contrary to the most elementary rules of diplomacy if I had made such a disclosure to an unknown ambassador in the course of my first conference with him. That would have made a sensation and would certainly have come to the cars of the Austrian Government and the whole world next day.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: On this point, I refer to Prince Erbach's interrogatory, Document 96, Page 238, questions 8 and 9, which deal with this subject. Page 232 of the English text.

THE WITNESS: Perhaps, my Lord, I might add that the prosecution is in possession of all my reports from the Vienna period, and that these reports are bound to show whether I was pursuing such an objective.


Q. Did you ever, during your time in Vienna, negotiate with Hungary and Poland about a division of Czechoslovakia? Mr. Messersmith makes such a statement.

A. No, I never did. The policy of the Reich in Czechoslovakia was the exclusive responsibility of our Embassy in Prague.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I refer to the Horthy interrogatory already presented as Document 76. I also refer to Document 68, Page 162, a report from Papen to Hitler, dated 31st August 1935.


Q. Mr. Messersmith asserts in the affidavit mentioned, that you stated during this conference that you were in Austria for the purpose of undermining and weakening the Austrian Government.

Did you make such a statement?

A. May I make a general statement with reference to this affidavit. If I am to express myself in diplomatic terms, I must describe it as in the highest degree astonishing. In this affidavit, Mr. Messersmith himself relates that on the occasion of my first visit he received me icily. That is perfectly correct. I was quite well aware that Mr. Messersmith was a keen opponent of the Nazi system. It is therefore all the more astonishing to read here that during the second visit I opened my heart, so to speak, to Mr. Messersmith; the passage quoted here - that I came to undermine and weaken the Austrian Government - is, of course, not true either, because such a statement would naturally have been communicated to the Austrian

[Page 303]

Government by Mr. Messersmith at once, and would have rendered all my work of pacification and my position generally impossible from the outset. May I refer in this connection to the statement made by the Austrian Foreign Minister Schmidt, to whom such activities on my part were entirely unknown.

Q. I refer in this connection also to Glaise-Horstenau's deposition in the case of Seyss-Inquart. Mr. Messersmith further alleges that you said to him during the discussion that you were trading on your reputation as a good Catholic with, among others, certain Austrians, like Cardinal Innitzer. Further on in his affidavit he even asserts that you used your wife's reputation as a fervent and devout Catholic for this purpose, without scruples or qualms of conscience. Will you kindly state your views on this assertion of Mr. Messersmith?

A. I think that of all the accusations raised against me, this is the most mortifying. I can understand that the policy pursued by a diplomat may be criticized and misinterpreted, but I cannot understand why anyone should be accused of misusing his own religious convictions for dirty, political, commercial purposes; I can understand even less - and find it the height of bad taste - that anyone should say that I even used the religious convictions of my wife for such purposes. Perhaps I can leave this to the judgement of this High Tribunal.

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