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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Third Day: Monday, 22th July, 1946
(Part 10 of 11)

[Page 221]

By DR. KUBUSCHOK, Continued:

The following must be considered with respect to the legislative work in the Cabinet of the defendant von Papen: His position of Vice-Chancellor was without an administrative sphere. The influence, even in political questions, which the head of a regular ministry had in Cabinet sessions therefore did not exist in the case of Papen. He could only express misgivings or objections from a general point of view, without being able to base them on departmental grounds.

Considering the small number of Cabinet session protocols available - despite all my efforts I did not succeed in procuring the remaining ones - the extent of Papen's opposition and that of the other ministers cannot be proved by documents. The fact that he voiced this opposition was revealed in the hearing of evidence. But, as admitted, the success was a small one. Thus it is the duty of the defence to investigate more deeply the reasons why Hitler's powerful position gradually increased and why the influence of the non-National Socialist ministers became smaller; in short, why the guarantees failed which had been provided when the Government was formed on 30th January.

At the beginning the course of the Cabinet sessions did not deviate from the normal procedure. The questions which arose were made the subject of discussions. Hitler did not try at any cost to carry through the bills which were rejected for good reasons. A clear description to that effect is given by the affidavit of the former minister Hugenberg - Defence Document 88.

The elections of 5th March, with the overwhelming success of the National Socialist Party, brought along a substantial change. Beyond their purely parliamentary repercussions, Hitler was strengthened in his conviction of being the deputy of the German people. He thought that now the time had come for him to make use of his right, granted to him by Article 56 of the Constitution of the Reich; to determine in his capacity of Reich Chancellor the fundamental lines of policy even in case of opposition on the part of the ministers.

With respect to the constitutional situation I refer to Document 22, which shows that in questions of fundamental policy even a majority decision of the ministers was without effect against the decision of the Reich Chancellor. Now Hitler became very unapproachable to any suggestions. In case of any relevant opposition he thought to have against him an oppositional phalanx, and soon it became evident that objections made in the Cabinet were of no avail to change Hitler's attitude. At the best, one could hope, as the defendant von Neurath declared as a witness, to influence Hitler outside the Cabinet in a direct discussion.

The essential factors in Hitler's development into an autocrat were his increasingly strengthened position with regard to Hindenburg and his ever-increasing influence on the Reich Defence Minister von Blomberg.

Hitler's first measures, which, in Hindenburg's eyes, showed his endeavour toward the establishment of a strict order, had constantly improved Hitler's personal relations with Hindenburg. He skilfully undertook to adjust himself to Hindenburg's mentality. Therefore he succeeded very soon in abolishing the original stipulation concerning the obligation of making joint reports. Thus Papen was deprived of the major possibility to influence Hindenburg.

The attitude of the War Minister von Blomberg was the second decisive point in Hitler's further policy.

The Wehrmacht was a factor of power. Hitler knew that its men and officers were probably essentially unpolitical, but that by no means - especially as far as its leadership was concerned - were they inclined to have National Socialist ideas. An extensively radical course of the Government might therefore always give rise to resistance on the part of the Wehrmacht. It must be added that owing to his personality, Hindenburg listened especially willingly to reports coming from military circles. As long as the War Minister was not a disciple of Hitler, the latter was prevented from carrying out any radical ideas.

[Page 222]

It is not yet possible today .to gain an historically clear picture which would permit one to explain the reason .for Hitler's influence on Blomberg. We must state the fact that Blomberg became very soon an ardent admirer of Hitler, and that on his part no sort of resistance could be expected against any extensive radical development whatsoever of Hitler's policy. The 30th of June, 1934, proved this very clearly.

In retrospect, the logical consequence of this development becomes clear. Hitler could only be impressed by power. The Wehrmacht with its strength of that time was, especially in relation to the position of the Reich President von Hindenburg, a factor of power with which, at the beginning, even Hitler and his Party would not have been able to cope in case of a trial of strength. That is the reason for Hitler's endeavour to win Hindenburg's confidence, the reason for his comparatively cautious manoeuvring during the time before Hindenburg's death, which by no means allowed one to presume an intensified procedure later on. From the time of Hindenburg's death, Hitler appeared as a dictator without consideration for anything; and who, at least in the inner-political field, displayed his ruthless power policy.

In addition to the legislative activity of the Cabinet, the prosecution dealt with the question to what extent Papen was responsible for the oppression of political opponents and for certain acts of violence which occurred during the period which the terminology of that time called "national revolution".

During the cross-examination, Papen was asked whether he knew about the arrest and mistreatment of individual Communist and Social Democratic personages mentioned to him. Papen gave an essentially negative answer. However, he knew that due to the Decree for the Protection of People and State issued by the Reich President, measures had been taken which suppressed the personal freedom of a great number of leftists. The decree was issued by the Reich President, outside Papen's responsibility, and by suppression of the relevant constitutional stipulations. It was established under the impression created by the Reichstag fire, an event which up to the present day has not been clearly elucidated, but for which the official statement that Communist circles had instigated the arson seemed to be entirely credible. Especially since the search of the Liebknecht House, the Communist headquarters, produced, according to Goering's declaration, very serious evidence concerning actions planned against the Reich Cabinet. The inquiry was held by a judge of the Reichsgericht (Reich Supreme Court), a personality whose impartiality was beyond any doubt. Therefore, Papen could understand the legal security measures which the administration of the interior thought necessary. But knowledge of the arrest of those politicians is by no means connected eo ipso with the knowledge of the details and of the extent of the measures taken at that time.

During the years of the National Socialist regime, we learned again and again that the knowledge of acts of violence remained restricted to the narrow circle of the direct participants. The measures taken before the release of an internee in order to reduce him to silence were evidently successful. Thus we see again and again that there was always only a small circle of initiated which was composed of the immediate environment of returned internees. This explains the fact which sometimes amazes one afterwards, namely that quite large circles were not informed of the kind and extent of the excesses committed. It is evident that close relatives and close friends of the politicians arrested at that time knew of what had happened to their people. The extent of the secrecy is shown best by the fact that the witness Gisevius assumes that the conditions in concentration camps did not become generally known to Gestapo officials until 1935.

Thus, it seems to me absolutely explainable that Papen knew very little about the measures which, during the first months, were almost exclusively taken against political opponents of National Socialism coming from leftist circles. At any

[Page 223]

rate his knowledge did not go beyond the fact that, in this respect, arrests were made within the scope of the "Decree for the Protection of People and State".

It was a different matter, however, with the later encroachment on the rights of Church offices and organizations, which to a large extent appealed to him and which at once he energetically tried to help. The same holds true for the measures in connection with 30th June, 1934, which will be discussed later on.

In any case it is a decisive fact that the measures, as far as they were outside the law, were subject to the jurisdiction of the police and the Ministry of the Interior. The law itself is an emergency decree of Hindenburg's. It came about legally. The new broadened conception of protective custody does not in itself constitute a crime.

With regard to anti-Jewish excesses the prosecution accused Papen of having sent a telegram to the New York Times on 25th March, 1933, describing the situation in Germany as quiet on the whole, and of having pointed out that individual actions had occurred but were now prohibited by an order from Hitler.

From the sources which were accessible to him, Papen had of course heard of the excesses of which individual SA men had become guilty in this period, which was still unsettled politically. If on 12th March, 1933, Hitler categorically forbade such actions by individuals and ordered the strictest punishment for any offenders in the future, Papen could assume with a clear conscience that this order which emanated from the highest authority would henceforth be obeyed.

In passing, it is not without interest in this respect to refer to a public announcement of the "League of Jewish Front Soldiers" of 25th March, 1933. This proclamation also stated the fact that the situation with respect to the Jewish population was, in general, quiet, and that excesses were confined to actions by individuals, which had now been forbidden by Hitler. (I shall submit this publication of the League in my Document Book for the Reich Government.)

The same standpoint was taken in a publication of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cologne on 25th March, 1933, which publication I shall also present during the hearing of evidence for the Reich Cabinet.

The Jewish boycott which was announced some days later and which was carried out on 1st April, 1933, was, contrary to the opinion of the prosecution, no Government measure, but exclusively a Party measure which Papen, too, as well as others in the Cabinet, sharply opposed. The publication of The Times, submitted with Neurath's Defence Exhibit 9, proves that over and beyond this Papen made representations to Hindenburg and called for the latter's intervention with Hitler.

For the rest, one must take into consideration the fact that the Jewish boycott had been announced as a defensive counter- measure which was to be limited in time and to be extended only to business life. It had been expressly ordered that any use of force was forbidden and that excesses were to be prevented by corresponding measures.

The prosecution has presented the domestic policy in such a light that it would seem that through the measures taken the position of the National Socialist Party was much to be strengthened, so that it should then be possible to turn to the aims of the foreign policy of force which had been decided upon beforehand. Still more important than the discussion of domestic conditions is therefore an examination of the foreign policy of the Reich during the time Papen was Vice-Chancellor.

Hindenburg's reservation that he would appoint the Foreign Minister, and the appointment of von Neurath who had been Foreign Minister until then and was not a National Socialist to this post, necessarily led one to expect a foreign policy along the course hitherto taken.

Hitler' first measures seemed not only to justify this expectation but even to go beyond it. The first speech on matters of foreign policy made on 17th May, 1935, dealt with Germany's relations to Poland which in the past had been entirely satisfactory. The annexation by Poland, recently revived, of large territories

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formerly belonging to the German Reich had brought with it a latent tension between these States, Hitler was the first to take up the problem and to resolve, according to his declaration in the Reichstag, to bring about a policy of friendship with Poland by recognising the Polish State and its needs. If one considers the fact that the thought of renouncing all claims to a revision in regard to Poland was not only generally unpopular, but also stood in sharp opposition to previous propaganda, it was impossible to foresee the development of later years. One was necessarily convinced that here was an internally strong government supporting its domestic reconstruction with a policy of peace abroad.

Germany's adherence to the Four-Power Pact and its renewed profession of adherence to Locarno served to underline this conviction. The struggle in foreign politics for ideological values lay in a different direction. The question of eliminating the clause in the Versailles Treaty which stipulates Germany's exclusive guilt and the question of equal rights for this large country which had pursued a persistent policy of peace since 1918 were demands which on one hand did not seem to burden the other side with unbearable sacrifices, and which were yet suited to remove from the German people an ideological burden which it considered oppressive.

Germany's withdrawal from the disarmament conference must be considered from these viewpoints. It took place after long- drawn-out negotiations had produced no positive results and because it was in no way evident that the powers were inclined to bring about in future a fulfilment of the German demands. The declaration of the Reich Government and of Hindenburg that this step was to be looked upon as a tactical step, and that the same objectives were to be retained, namely the preservation of peace under recognition of equal rights, all this therefore had to appear credible and reasonable.

From the same points of view Papen also approved of this step. With regard to the simultaneous withdrawal from the League of Nations opinions could have differed. Here, too, one might hold the view that the withdrawal was necessary as a movement of protest, and that one could prove through factual efforts in the matter itself that it was intended to adhere to a policy of peace.

Papen figured among those who felt obliged to advise against withdrawal from the League of Nations, even though he himself had experienced as Reich Chancellor that the negotiations in the large and manifold assembly of the League caused certain difficulties in some questions. On the other hand, however, he was so convinced of the institution of the League of Nations as an instrument of understanding and as an instrument to facilitate the technical possibilities for agreement that he wished to avoid withdrawal from the League of Nations. He advocated this opinion very strongly. Since he could not persuade Hitler in Berlin, he followed him to Munich shortly before the decision in order to lay his well-founded opinion before him there. Ergo we see Papen here working actively in a field for which in his position as Vice-Chancellor he actually had no responsibility, aiming at a solution which, if one takes as a basis the views of the prosecution concerning the withdrawal from the League of Nations, can only be considered as a step towards peace.

Because of the fundamental importance of the withdrawal from the League of Nations the measure was submitted to the German people in the form of a plebiscite enabling it to state its opinion. On the occasion of this plebiscite, Hitler, the Government and Hindenburg issued proclamations which emphasized expressly that this step was not intended to constitute a change of policy, but merely a change of method. Preparations for the plebiscite were carried out in line with this statement.

The prosecution accuses Papen of having glorified in his Essen speech the successes of Hitler's Government and of having presented an unconditionally affirmative attitude towards the questions to be decided by the plebiscite.

[Page 225]

If Papen did the latter, it was because he felt obliged to do so, the decision having been cast once and for all - a decision which had to be justified before the world. If the responsible leaders actually did not strive for anything but a change of methods, no objections could be made. The position of German foreign policy would have been shaken if the people had, shown in the plebiscite that they opposed the measure already taken. It was therefore quite natural to approve of this policy in public within the framework of the solemnly given assurances. Moreover, it could not be overlooked that in a plebiscite on Government measures the vote of confidence could not pass over internal politics altogether.

We have to take the date of the speech into consideration. In November, 1933, Hitler had made good progress in the field which was in the foreground of necessity and interest, namely, the easing of economic distress and the elimination of unemployment. His measures were on a large scale and at first showed apparent success. Here, too, one cannot measure things by the same standard that one applies to them today in full knowledge of their development. At that time the course taken seemed justified by its success. In his electoral speech which demanded a demonstration of confidence in the Government for the purpose of acknowledging a matter of foreign policy, Papen felt obliged to refer appreciatively to this positive development in domestic politics.

In his introductory speech, Mr. Justice Jackson himself acknowledged in the following words the conditions of 1933 which have been described:

"In 1933, we saw the German people recovering prestige in the commercial, industrial and artistic world after the set-back of the last war. We beheld their progress neither with envy nor malice."
Of all problems of foreign policy it was perhaps the question of German-French relations which interested Papen most. In his own testimony he has stated his views on this subject and has related how, as early as in the twenties, he collaborated in various political and Catholic bodies with the idea of promoting understanding and a rapprochement between France and Germany. I refer in this connection to Document 92 and to the meeting between Papen and the French Colonel Picot which is described therein and which is characteristic of Papen's attitude.

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