Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-02/nca-02-16-responsibility-18-03 Last-Modified: 1997/06/08 Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume Two, Chapter XIV C. AS VICE-CHANCELLOR, VON PAPEN USED HIS POSITION AND PERSONAL INFLUENCE TO FACILITATE THE CONSOLIDATION OF NAZI CONTROL OVER GERMANY. (1) In the first critical year and a half of Nazi consolidation of control over Germany, von Papen was second only to Hitler in the Cabinet which established the legal basis for furtherance of the Nazi program. As Vice- Chancellor, van Papen was the only member of the government empowered to act for the Fuehrer in his absence. (2) Von Papen actively participated in the general abolition of civil liberties by promoting legislation which paved the way for the Nazi police state. At the first meeting of Hitler's Cabinet, there was intensive discussion concerning the possibility of securing passage of an Enabling Law which in practical effect would liquidate the Reichstag and make the Nazi Cabinet the supreme law-making power of the Reich. The conspirators, including von Papen, at this meeting clearly indicated that they did not at the time hold sufficient power to achieve this measure by normal constitutional methods (351-PS). Seizing the Reichstag fire as a pretext, the Cabinet forthwith arranged for the suspension of those fundamental civil liberties (including freedom of speech, press, assembly and association) which would protect citizens who dared to oppose the plans of the conspirators. The suspension of civil liberties was accomplished by issuance of a Presidential decree, which presumably, according to German usage, was proposed to the Reich President by the Cabinet and-countersigned by those Ministers whose departments were involved (1390-PS; This basic law was only the first of a series which placed the individual dissenter at the mercy of the Nazi state. As if to underscore explicitly the basic policy behind this legislation, von Papen personally signed the decree which implemented this legislation by creating Special Courts to enforce its provisions. This decree abolished rights, including the right of appeal, which had previously characterized the administration of justice by the German judicial system. It thus constituted also the first legislative measure for the Nazification of the German judiciary (2076-PS). The subsequent creation of the dreaded Volksgericht and the wholesale Nazification of the German system of criminal law was merely the logical development of these earlier steps. This too was achieved by decree of the Cabinet in which von Papen was Vice-Chancellor (3) Von Papen actively participated in substitution of the Nazi Cabinet for the Reichstag as Germany's supreme law- giving authority, notwithstanding his doubts as to the advisability of giving Hitler such extensive power. Von Papen actively participated in the Cabinet deliberations concerning the proposed so-called Enabling Act, and concerning the means by which it might be made law (351-PS; 2962-PS; 2963-PS). The enactment of this law deprived the Reichstag of its legislative functions, so that legislative as well as executive powers were concentrated in Hitler and his Cabinet (2001-PS). Enactment of the law was made possible only by the application of Nazi pressure and terror against the potential opponents of this legislation, and by taking advantage of the Presidential decree of 28 February 1933, suspending constitutional guarantees of freedom. (See section 2 of Chapter VII on the Acquisition of Totalitarian Political Control.) As if to indorse the methods by which this legislation was enacted, von Papen personally signed the Amnesty Decree of 21 [Page 926] March 1933, liberating all persons who had committed murder between 30 January 1933 and 21 March 1933 against anti-Nazi politicians, writers, and Reichstag Deputies (2059-PS). Von Papen participated in this program notwithstanding the fact that he foresaw at that time the implications of granting to Hitler the complete powers conferred by the Enabling Act. He has so testified (in an interrogation at Nurnberg, 3 September 1945): "Q. After Hitler became Chancellor, when for the first time did you have any doubts about the wisdom of having allowed him to become Chancellor? "A. Well, that's difficult to say. I mean the first doubt certainly I had when the Reichstag gave in to his request for the law, to enable him to rule the country without parliament." (4) Von Papen not only participated in the seizure by the cabinet of supreme power for the Nazis, but as a member of the cabinet participated in the systematic elimination of all potential enemies of the Nazi conspiracy. The Reichstag fire and the ensuing suppression of civil liberties marked the beginning of the destruction of all rival political parties. The immediate elimination of the legally elected Communist members from the Reichstag was merely the forerunner of the rapid and complete liquidation of all political parties other than the National Socialists (2403- PS; 1396-PS; 2058-PS; 1388-PS). By these measures the suppression of all democratic opposition became complete, within one year of the time when von Papen was warning his countrymen of the dangers of authoritarianism. Having substituted the autocracy of the Hitler cabinet for the democratic force of the Reichstag, the cabinet proceeded immediately to enact a series of laws abolishing the states and coordinating them with the Reich (2004-PS; 2005-PS; 2006- PS). The enactment of these laws, which had been clearly indicated by point 25 of the Party program, removed all possible retarding influences which the German federal State might have exerted against the overwhelming centralization of power in Hitler' Reich Cabinet. The importance of this step, as well as the role played by Papen, is reflected in an exchange of letters between Reichs President Hindenburg, von Papen in his capacity as Reichskommissar for Prussia, and Reichs Minister Goering. The exchange occurred in connection with the recall of the Reichskommissar and the appointment of Goering to the post of Minister President of Prussia. In tendering his resignation, on 7 April 1933, von Papen wrote to Hitler: "With the draft of the law for the coordination of the states with the Reich, passed today by the Reich Chancellor, legislative work has begun which will be of historical significance for the political development of the German state. The step taken by the Reich Government, which I headed at the time, is now crowned by this new inter-locking of the Reich. You, Herr Reich Chancellor, will now, as once Bismarck, be able to coordinate in all points the policy of the greatest of German states with that of the Reich. Now that the new law enables you to appoint a Prussian Prime Minister I ask you to inform the Reich President that I return to his hands my post of Reichs Commissar for Prussia." In transmitting this resignation request to President Hindenburg, Hitler stated: "Vice-Chancellor von Papen has sent a letter to me which I enclose for your information. Herr von Papen already informed me within the last few days that he agreed with Minister Goering to resign on his own volition, as soon as the unified conduct of the governmental affairs in the Reich and in Prussia would be assured by the new law on coordination of policy in the Reich and the states [Laender]. "On the eve of the day when the new law on the institution of Reich governors [Reich-Statthalter] was adopted, Herr von Papen considered this aim as having been attained and he requested of me to undertake the appointment of the Prussian Prime Minister, when at the same time he would offer his full time services in the Reich "Herr von Papen, in accepting the commission for the Government of Prussia in these difficult times since 30 January, has rendered a very meritorious service to the realization of the idea of coordinating the policy in the Reich and the States. His collaboration in the Reich cabinet, for which he now offers all his strength, is infinitely valuable; my relationship to him is such a heartily friendly one, that I sincerely rejoice at the great help I shall thus receive. "For profound reverence, "A.H." (357-PS) The enactment of this legislation followed repeated declarations in which Papen had warned his countrymen of the dangers of the exaggerated degree of centralized authority which would result from abolition of the federal system. These warnings began before Hitler's accession to power and continued by implica- [Page 928] tion in the reassurances which Papen gave in February 1933 to Bavarian political leaders who expressed their fears of Nazi centralized authority (Cuno Horkenbach, Das Deutsche Reich von 1918 bis Heute. (The German Reich from 1918 until today) (Berlin 1933), p. 44). As late as 3 March 1933, in an election speech at Stuttgart, von Papen warned that: "Federalism saves us from centralism, that organizational form which concentrically draws all the vital forces of a people to one point, as a mirror will do with the rays of the sun. No people is less suited for being governed centralistically than the German people." Less than one month after its seizure of the legislative power, the cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted the first of a series of laws aimed at establishing firm Nazi control over the entire civil service and judiciary (2012-PS; 1400-PS; 1398-PS). Having been a public servant himself, von Papen was aware of the far-reaching effect of these first legislative and administrative steps in attaining full totalitarian control over the entire governmental machinery of Germany. The cabinet of which von Papen was a member embarked upon a state policy of persecution of the Jews. The first organized act in this program was the boycott of Jewish enterprises on 1 April 1933, which was approved by the entire cabinet. This was followed by a series of laws beginning the systematic elimination of the- Jews from public and professional life in Germany. (See Section 7 of Chapter VII on the Program for Persecution of Jews.) All these suppressive measures were in line with long- standing basic objectives of the NSDAP to which von Papen had agreed in his January conference with Hitler and von Schroeder. (5) To complete its suppression of all rival influences, the Cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted a series of decrees which strengthened the Nazi movement by conferring upon it a para-governmental status. Followers of the Party, through a decree signed personally by von Papen, were granted amnesty "for penal acts committed in the material revolution of the German People, in its preparation of the fight for the German soil" (2059-PS). The perpetrators of Nazi terrorism were thereby placed above the law, and a pattern was established for the subsequent handling of Nazi excesses. This cabinet enacted measures which gave legal protection to the status and symbols of the Party and its formations (1652- PS; This cabinet enacted a series of measures to assure the Nazi [Page 929] movement's spiritual control over Germany (2029-PS; 2030-PS; 2415-PS; 2083-PS; 2078-PS; 2088-PS). Having first outlawed all political parties other than the NSDAP, the cabinet of which von Papen was-a member formally decreed that: "1. After the victory of the National Socialistic Revolution, the National Socialistic German Labor Party is the bearer of the concept of the German State and is inseparably the state. "2. It will be a part of the public law. Its organization will be determined by the Fuehrer." (1395- PS). Having granted para-governmental status to the Nazi party, and having assured legal unity of the Party's Fuehrer and the Reich's Chancellor, the Nazis next step was to combine in the same person the Presidency of the German Reich. This was accomplished by merging the offices of President and Chancellor, by means of a decree signed by von Papen (2003- PS). An important consequence of this law was to give to Hitler the supreme command of the German armed forces, always a perquisite of the Presidency (2050-PS). (6) Despite disagreements as to detail, von Papen fundamentally agreed with basic Nazi objectives and publicly endorsed the regime for which he shared responsibility as Vice Chancellor. Von Papen's basic political philosophy was not so divergent from Nazism as to preclude an easy bridging of the gap. In 1932, while still Chancellor, von Papen had been willing to head a government in which Nazism would be strongly represented. By January 1933 he found it possible - - as a price for his restoration to a position of public prominence -- to submerge his differences with Hitler and to direct his energies to the installation of a Nazi regime (see B above). In addition to his participation as a cabinet member in the process of Nazifying Germany, von Papen's devotion to the Nazi cause was repeatedly demonstrated throughout this period by public statements and acts both by himself and by Hitler. Thus, as noted above in connection with his role in the elimination of the Laender as a political force, von Papen wrote Hitler in April 1933, that "You, Herr Reich Chancellor, will now, as once Bismarck, be able to coordinate in all points the policy of the greatest of German states with that of the Reich," And Hitler on that occasion took notice of Papen's services by declaring that [Page 930] "His collaboration in the Reich cabinet, for which he now offers all his strength, is infinitely valuable; my relationship to him is such a heartily friendly one, that I sincerely rejoice at the great help I shall thus receive." (3357-PS). And again on 2 November 1933, speaking from the same platform with Hitler and Gauleiter Terboven, in the course of the campaign for Reichstag election and the referendum on Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations, von Papen declared: "Ever since Providence called upon me to become the pioneer of national resurrection and the rebirth of our homeland, I have tried to support with all my strength the work of the national socialist movement and its leader; and just as I at the time of taking over the chancellorship have advocated to pave the way to power for the young fighting liberation movement, just as I on January 30 was selected by a gracious fate to put the hands of our chancellor and Fuehrer into the hand of our beloved field marshal, so do I today again feel the obligation to say to the German people and all those who have kept confidence in me: "The kind Lord has blessed Germany by giving it in times of deep distress a leader who will lead it, through all distresses and weaknesses, through all crisis and moment of danger, with the sure instinct of the statesman into a happy future." ******** "Let us in this hour say to the Fuehrer of the new Germany that we believe in him and his work." (3375- PS). By this time as noted above, the cabinet of which Papen was a member had abolished the civil liberties which were a condition to any effective protest against Nazism, had sanctioned political murder committed in aid of Nazism's seizure of power, had substituted itself for the Reichstag as Germany's supreme law-making authority, had destroyed all rival political parties, had enacted the basic laws for abolition of the political influence of the Laender, had provided the legislative basis for purging the civil service and judiciary of anti-Nazi elements, had embarked upon a state policy of persecution of the Jews, had legislated Nazi influence into the cultural life of the German nation, and had taken its first steps toward conferring a para- governmental status upon the Nazi party and its principal formations. Even after von Papen's Marburg speech of June 1934, in which he again showed some understanding of the dangers of Nazism, he remained a pillar of Nazi policy and influence. Thus Hitler [Page 931] himself, in attempting to justify the Blood Purge of 30 June 1934, tacitly admitted that Papen was still considered a loyal member of the regime: "The allegations [of foreign newspapers] that Vice- Chancellor von Papen, Reichsminister Seldte, or other gentlemen of the Reich Cabinet had entertained connections with the rebels is refuted by the fact that one of the first intentions of the rebels was to assassinate these men." (Hitler Reichstag address, 18 July 1934, as quoted in Das Archiv, Vol. IV, pp. 495, 507.) The Fuehrer thus made-a tacit bid for the continuing loyalty of von Papen. Von Papen's subsequent career demonstrated that this was not a vain expectation. He left the vice- chancellorship only to assume the new task of special emissary of the Fuehrer to Austria. But before leaving, while still Vice Chancellor, von Papen signed the decree combining the positions of President and Reichs Chancellor on 1 August 1934, and on 5 August 1934 he delivered the document -- the so-called Hindenburg Testament which purported to confer the revered president's dying blessing upon Hitler and the Nazi regime (Notice concerning delivery of Hindenburg's testament by Vice Chancellor von Papen, Das Archiv, Vol. V, page 648).
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