The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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By DR. KUBUSCHOK, Continued:

                                                  [Page 221]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                  [Page 224]

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

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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