The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Who was indicted?

A. Hitler was indicted, first of all, and naturally all
those who had been present and were apprehended. I had been
in Upper Bavaria for several days in a seriously wounded
state and was then brought to the border, was arrested
there, and then brought back by the Bavarian police. I asked
Hitler at that time whether I should appear at the trial; he
begged me urgently not to do that, and that was a good
thing. The proceedings could not be held behind closed
doors, because I had made the statement that if that were
done I for my part would make an appropriate public
statement in regard to the trial.

Then, after my recuperation, I spent about a year in Italy,
and then elsewhere abroad. In the year 1926 or 1927 there
was a general amnesty for all the people involved in the
different illegal - if I should call them that - incidents
which had been brought about not only by us but also by the
Leftists and the peasants: I was therefore able to return to
Germany.

The next time I met Hitler again was 1927, when we had a
rather brief conversation in Berlin. I was not active in the
Party then; I wanted first to

                                                   [Page 67]

provide myself with an independent position again. After
that I was not again in touch with Hitler for months.
Shortly before the May elections for the Reichstag in 1928
Hitler called me and told me he wanted to set me up as one
of the first on the list of Reichstag candidates for the
National Socialist Party and asked me whether I were
willing, and I said "yes." He also asked me whether my
activity in the Party to a stiff greater extent...

Q. One question: Had you meanwhile joined the S.A.?

A. No, at that time I had nothing more to do with the S.A.
In the meantime there were new appointments in the S.A. and
the new leader of the S.A., von Pfeffer, naturally wanted to
keep his position and would not have liked to see me in
close touch with that body.

Q. Then after 1923 you had no office or position in the
S.A.?

A. After 1923 my active position in the S.A. ceased. Not
until after the seizure of power, at a later date, when the
so-called honorary offices were created, did I receive, as
an honorary post, the highest rank in the S.A. But to come
back to 1928, I was elected to the Reichstag and from that
time on I toured the country as a speaker for the Party.

The S.A., I do not recall in what year, had been re-
established and was now no longer limited to Bavaria, but
had been extended to the whole Reich.

Q. Was it prohibited after 1923?

A. After 1923, it was prohibited for the time being.

Q. When was this prohibition rescinded?

A. I cannot say exactly, but it was, at any rate, before I
returned to Germany. In any case, it had spread over all
Germany and was now urgently needed. All the larger Parties
at that time had their so-called fighting units. Especially
active, I remember, was the Red Front, a collection of the
fighting units of the Communists, our severest opponents,
with whom we had repeated clashes and who very often tried
to break up our meetings. In addition there was the
Reichsbanner, the organisation of the Social Democrats of
the Democratic Party; there was the Stahlhelm - that was a
Nationalist organisation of the Right - and then there was
our S.A.

I should like to emphasise that at that time the S.A. often
had to suffer heavily. Most of the S.A. men came from the
broad masses; they were small employees, men who took part
only for idealistic reasons and who had to work nights and
evenings without receiving anything in payment, and who did
so only out of their real faith in the Fatherland. They were
often most severely wounded and a number of them were shot
in the clashes. They were persecuted by the Government. They
could not be officials; an official could not be in the S.A.
They had to endure a terrific pressure. I should like to
emphasise that I had the highest respect and affection for
these men, these S.A. men, who were not determined, as has
been pictured here, simply to do something cruel, but who
were rather men who really exposed themselves voluntarily to
the most difficult trials and vexations because of their
idealism and their goals, and renounced many things in order
to realise their ideals.

Q. What was your position in the Party during the period
from 1928 until the taking over of power?

A. I had no office in the Party. I was never a political
leader in the Party - that is perhaps strange - neither in
the Reich Party directorate nor elsewhere. I was first of
all, as I said, a member of the Reichstag and thereby a
member of the Reichstag faction of the Party and at the same
time the Party speaker - that is, I travelled from city to
city and did whatever I could to extend the Party, to
strengthen it, to recruit and convince new members and
especially to win over to our side Communist and Marxist
adherents in order to create a broad base among the people
in the Party.

                                                   [Page 68]

In the middle of 1932, after numerous elections had taken
place, entailing an enormous amount of electioneering -
holding many meetings, two and three daily, often lasting
throughout the night - we became the strongest Party, and I
was elected President of the Reichstag, and thereby took
over a definite political task.

Shortly before, at the end of 1931, when I saw that the
Party had grown to an extraordinary extent and was making
gains, the Fuehrer once said to me that he would very much
like to have a direct representative who was independent of
a Party office and who could carry out political
negotiations. This person was not to be tied down to any
particular Party office. He asked me whether I would take
over this function, especially since I was living in the
Reich capital anyway.

I took over this commission - it was not an office, but
rather a commission of a general nature. In a few sentences
he gave me the liberty to negotiate with all Parties, from
the Communists to the extreme Right, in order, let us say,
to undertake specific joint action in the Reichstag, or
other suitable political steps - naturally also, in this
connection, the task of working for the dissemination and
the penetration of our ideals into all circles.

To these circles belonged, as has already been mentioned,
industrial and clerical groups. Since I had connections with
and access to all these circles, it was self-evident that
the Fuehrer considered me specially suited for this task,
inasmuch as he could absolutely depend upon me in this
regard and knew that I would muster all my powers to advance
our ideas. As President of the Reichstag, my task in this
capacity was really eased, for now I was, so to speak,
legally authorised, and, even obliged, to participate in
political events.

If, for instance, a Government resigned in the Reichstag or
was brought to fall by a vote of no confidence, it was my
duty, as President of the Reichstag, to suggest to the Reich
President, after having negotiated with the Parties, what
the possibilities were in my opinion for a new coalition
Government. Thus the Reich President was always bound to
receive me in this capacity with regard to these matters.
Therefore I could bring about a rather close connection
between the Reich President and myself But I should like to
emphasise that this connection had already existed before;
it was a matter of course that Field-Marshal von Hindenburg,
if I requested it, would always receive me, because he had
known me in the First World War.

Q. What part did you play in the appointment of Hitler as
Reich Chancellor?

A. I should just like to explain first that when I said that
I held no office in the Party, no political office, my
position had nevertheless naturally become stronger and
stronger, especially since the end of 1931, from which time
on I worked more and more closely with the Fuehrer and was
considered his right-hand man - but only on the basis of
normal and natural authority which increased greatly after
the seizure of power. As to my part in the appointment of
Hitler - if I am to explain this to the Tribunal I must
first describe the situation briefly. The balance among the
Parliamentary Parties had been disturbed as early as the end
of 1931 or the beginning of 1932. Things were going badly in
Germany and no proper enduring Parliamentary majority could
actually be produced, and already at this time the Enabling
Act then in force had come into play to the exclusion, in
part, of the Constitution. I call to mind the Bruning
Cabinet alone, which had to work to a large extent with the
Enabling Act and which at the time was also greatly
concerned with Article 48 of the Reich Constitution. Then
there followed the Cabinet of von Papen, which also could
not put itself, on a Parliamentary basis, on a more lasting
or firmer basis. Herr von Papen at that time tried to make
that possible and, in order to get a Parliamentary basis, he
demanded also of the National Socialists, the strongest
Party at that time, that they, together with the other
Parties, establish

                                                   [Page 69]

such a basis. There was some talk - von Papen's name had
been given to the President as a nominee for Reich
Chancellor - that Hitler should become the Vice-Chancellor
in this Cabinet. I remember that I told Herr von Papen at
that time that Hitler could become any number of things, but
never as "Vice." Whatever he was to become, he would
naturally have to be in the highest position, and it would
be completely unbearable and unthinkable to place our
Fuehrer in any sort of "Vice" position. We would then have
played the role of being governed, which was quite
impossible for us; and Hitler, as the representative of the
strongest Party, would have had to cover up these things.
This we declined categorically. I do not emphasise that,
because Herr von Papen is in the dock with me, he knows that
we always respected him personally; but I told him then,
after this suggestion had come to naught, that we would not
only not support him but would also oppose his Cabinet in
the Reichstag to the utmost, just as we would consistently
fight every Cabinet which did not give us the leading
influence in the Chancellery.

There came then - I do not remember exactly for how many
months Herr von Papen ruled - the well-known clash between
him and me, he as Reich Chancellor, I as the President of
the Reichstag, in which it was my intention to bring his
Government to a fall, and I knew there was a motion of no
confidence by the Communists, in which practically everybody
would participate. It was simply necessary to declare this
vote of no confidence under all circumstances in order to
show the Reich President that one could not rule with such
Cabinets without some sort of strong reserve. I saw the Red
portfolio and knew that the order for dissolution was in it,
but let the voting be carried through first. Thirty-two
votes were for von Papen and about five hundred were against
him. The Cabinet of von Papen resigned.

Until that point all the Parties, except the few very small
ones, had set up Cabinets. All men who were available had
already been presented to the people at some time. Towards
the end Reich Defence Minister von Schleicher had been more
and more the political figure behind the scenes. There were,
therefore, only two possibilities: either the actual
proportion of power would be taken into account and the
leader of the strongest Party, as is generally customary,
would be brought into conference and entrusted with this
power, or else the man who was operating behind the scenes,
the only other possibility would be brought in. The latter
happened. Herr von Schleicher himself took over the
chancellorship in connection with - and this is important -
the office of Reich Defence Minister; and it was clear to
us, and not only to us, but also to the other Parties, since
Herr von Schleicher had far fewer personal sympathisers than
Herr von Papen and could not bring about a majority, that
ultimately a military dictatorship was aimed at by the
former. I had negotiations with Herr von Schleicher and told
him that at that moment it might be possible to form a
Parliamentary majority. Through conferences I succeeded in
bringing together German Nationals, National Socialists,
Centre, German People's Party and smaller supporting groups,
to form a majority. It was clear to me that such a majority
could be only temporary because the conflicting interests
were too great. But it was a matter of indifference to me by
what means I brought our Party to power - if by means of
Parliamentary negotiations, very good; if through
appointment by the Reich President, all the better.

These negotiations were turned down by Herr von Schleicher
because he knew that he then would not be able to remain
Chancellor. Then again, there were Emergency Laws and
Enabling Acts. The Reichstag had thus been more or less
excluded even before our seizure of power.

I immediately issued the same challenge to Herr Schleicher
in the Reichstag much more emphatically than previously to
Herr von Papen. In the meantime the presidential election
had taken place and after that a Reichstag election, in
which, after the dissolution of von Papen's Cabinet we lost
several seats, being

                                                   [Page 70]


reduced from 232 to 196. Then in January there were further
elections, which showed an extraordinary rise in favour of
our Party and proved that the short crisis had been
surmounted, and that the Party was on the upgrade more
strongly than ever before.

On Sunday, 22nd January, 1933, I was in Dresden at a large
political meeting, when I was called in the morning by the
Fuehrer to go to Berlin immediately. I arrived that
afternoon, and he told me - what I already knew - that the
Reich President was no longer satisfied with von Schleicher
and saw that political matters could not go on this way;
nothing was ever accomplished; the Reich President had
independently arrived at the conclusion that somehow
responsibility must now be given to the strongest Party.
Before that time, in a very clever way, a wrong personal
impression of the Fuehrer had been created in the old
gentleman's mind and he was prejudiced - he probably took
offence at the word Socialism, because he understood that in
a different way.

Then, briefly, Hitler revealed to me on that day that that
evening I was to speak to the Field-Marshal's son at the
home of Herr von Ribbentrop. I believe Herr von Papen was to
be present also and - I am not sure about this - Meissner,
who was the State Secretary of the Reich President. The
Field-Marshal's son wanted to inquire on behalf of his
father what were the possibilities of Hitler as Chancellor
and the inclusion of the Party in responsibility. In a
rather lengthy conversation I declared to the son that he
should tell his father that one way or another, von
Schleicher would lead to shipwreck. I explained to him the
new basic conditions for forming a new Government, and then
heard of the Field-Marshal's willingness to entrust Hitler
with the chancellorship, thereby regarding the Party as the
main basis for a future Government majority, if Adolf Hitler
were also able to succeed, on this occasion, in drawing in
the German Nationals and the Stahlhelm - for he wanted to
see a clear-cut national basis. The Stahlhelm was not a
Parliamentary Party but it had many followers. The German
Nationals under Hugenberg were a Parliamentary Party.

We did not discuss very much more that evening. I told von
Hindenburg's son that he could tell his father that I would
undoubtedly bring that about, and the Fuehrer gave me orders
to take care of negotiations during the coming week with
these Parties on the one hand and with the Reich President
on the other. There were difficulties here and there. I
found that our conceding of ...

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will break off now.

(A recess was taken.)

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. You were dealing with the question of your participation
in the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor. Would you
continue.

A. I had arrived at the last decisive period. The
negotiations had become somewhat difficult because the Field-
Marshal, Reich President von Hindenburg, who up till then
knew the Fuehrer personally only from two conversations and
who had not yet overcome his distrust of him, which had been
instilled and nourished for many years by a variety of
influences, simply because he did not know him, had at that
time demanded some severe restrictions, so that we, as the
strongest and now the leading Party, which had to be
responsible to the nation for future measures, would be
relatively very restricted and, in view of our strength,
weakly represented in the Government.

One must not forget that at this moment Germany had arrived
at the lowest point of her downward development; 8,000,000
unemployed; all programmes had failed; no more confidence in
the Parties; a very strong rise on the part of the
revolutionary Leftist side; and political insecurity. In
consequence those measures were necessary which the people
would expect of us, if we were in the Government, and for
which we had to stand, and it was a very heavy burden

                                                   [Page 71]

to take over such a responsibility with such severe
political restrictions imposed. Von Hindenburg made the
following conditions:

(1) That under any circumstances, Herr von Papen should
become Vice-Chancellor in this Cabinet. Aside from his
sympathetic personality, Herr von Papen did not bring us
anything, because there was no Party behind him. The Reich
President demanded, however, beyond that, that Herr von
Papen should be present when the Fuehrer, after being
appointed Reich Chancellor, made the necessary reports to
the Reich President. This condition, however, was abandoned
very quickly, and by the Reich President himself.

(2) That the Foreign Ministry, independent of all Parties,
should be in the hands of Herr von Neurath. Herr von Neurath
also brought us nothing in the way of political power, aside
from his knowledge and ability.

(3) That the position of Prussian Minister President which,
next to that of the Reich Chancellor, was always the most
important in Germany during the period after the World War,
should likewise be filled by the person of Herr von Papen.
Before the World War, as is known, the offices of Reich
Chancellor and Prussian Minister President were for these
reasons always combined in one person.

(4) That the office of Reich Defence Minister also be in the
hands of an independent person, a soldier. The Reich
President actually chose General von Blomberg, at that time
at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, to fill that post,
and we had no voice in the matter. Herr von Blomberg was
personally known neither to the Fuehrer nor to me at that
time.

Even though the essential and decisive and most important
posts in the Cabinet were thus already filled by persons in
whose choice we had had no influence, still further demands
developed in the course of the week. It was demanded that
the Finance Ministry be in the hands of Count Schwerin-
Krosigk, again a man backed by no political Party. The
Ministry of Transportation was to be under Herr von Eltz, to
whom the same applied. The leader of the Stahlhelm, Seldte,
was to be taken into the Cabinet. Certainly the Stahlhelm
was a large and extensive movement, but not politically, and
not represented by a single delegate in the Reichstag.

There was left, as a really political Party, only the German
National Party, with 36 seats - our only Parliamentary ally,
so to speak. Here, too, extraordinary demands were made,
which were in no correct proportion to the smallness of that
Party.

In the end we, as the strongest Party at that time with 232
seats, got only the following, as far as I remember: the
office of Reich Chancellor of course; then Dr. Frick as
Reich Minister of the Interior in the Cabinet; and I next,
as the third member of the Reich Cabinet, with an assignment
as Reich Commissar for Aviation - that is, of a very small
subordinate division, an insignificant branch of a small
aviation department in the Ministry of Transport, but no
department otherwise. But then I succeeded in becoming,
without conditions attached, Prussian Minister of the
Interior and thereby a political Minister of the largest
German State, as Prussia was actually the place where the
rise to internal power started.

It was therefore an extraordinarily difficult affair. At the
last moment the formation of the Cabinet threatened to fail
because of two factors. The Fuehrer had made the
unconditional demand that shortly after the appointment of
the new Cabinet a new Reichstag election should take place,
knowing, correctly, that the Party would be greatly
strengthened thereby and thus possibly could alone represent
the majority and so be in a position to form the Government
platform by Parliamentary means.

Hugenberg, as leader of the German National Party,
absolutely opposed this, knowing that his Party would
probably disappear more or less in this

                                                   [Page 72]

election. Even five minutes before the meeting of the
Cabinet there was still danger that it would fall apart, for
this reason. It was pure chance that, at this moment, the
Reich President undertook to administer the oath to the new
Ministers; and so the Cabinet was formed.

The second danger threatened from Schleicher who, through
his confidant, on Sunday made the following offer to the
Fuehrer and me: He wanted to stress that the Reich President
was not a sure factor as far as the new Government was
concerned; it would serve the purpose better if he - even
though he had withdrawn the day before - were to join us to
form a Government now, quite definitely not on a
Parliamentary basis of any kind, but rather on the basis of
an entirely new situation, a coalition of the Reichswehr and
the N.S.D.A.P.

The Fuehrer refused, recognising that this would be
impossible and that the intentions were not honest.

When Herr von Blomberg arrived at the railroad station from
Geneva on Monday morning, he received two orders, one from
Herr von Hammerstein, Chief of the Army Command Staff and
his superior, to come to him immediately, the other from
Hindenburg, his Commander-in-Chief, similarly worded.

There was at that time, known only to a few, the threat of a
putsch by Schleicher and Hammerstein with the Potsdam
Garrison.

On Sunday evening I pointed that out to Reich President von
Hindenburg, and that is the reason why Herr von Blomberg,
two hours before the rest of the Cabinet, was appointed
Minister of War, or, at that time, Reich Defence Minister,
in order to prevent any wrong move by the Reichswehr.

At 11 o'clock on the morning of the 30th, the Cabinet was
formed and Hitler appointed Reich Chancellor.


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