The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Franz Von Papen

(Part 4 of 15)

[Page 920]

The Vice Chancellor's campaign against the Nazis culminated finally in a radio speech to the German public on 4 November 1932, in which he severely criticized Nazi political methods. He damned the Nazis' "pure party egoism" which resulted in methods described by him as "sabotage" and as "a crime against the nation." He accused the Nazis of wanting complete and permanent power in Germany (Deutsche Reichsgeshichte in Dokumenten IV, p. 523 (Rundfunkrede des Reichkanzlers von Papen)).

[Page 921]

Nor was von Papen content merely to make speeches against the Nazis. As late as November 1932, Papen was prepared to use all the forces at the command of the state in a supreme effort to suppress the rising Nazi menace. He was deterred from this purpose only by a failure to secure the support of his cabinet. The inner struggles of the German cabinet at this time are recounted by Otto Meissner (in a statement made at Nurnberg, 28 November 1945), Chief of the Chancery of Reichspresident Hindenburg.

"Papen's reappointment as Chancellor by President Hindenburg would have been probable if he had been prepared to take up an open fight against the National Socialists, which would have involved the threat or use of force. Almost up to the time of his resignation, Papen and some of the other ministers agreed on the necessity for pressing the fight against the Nazis by employing all the resources of the State and relying on Article 48 of the Constitution, even if this might lead to armed conflict. Other ministers, however, believed that such a course would lead to civil war.

"The decision was provided by Schleicher, who in earlier times had recommended energetic action against the National Socialists -- even if this meant the use of police and army. Now, in the decisive cabinet meeting, he abandoned this idea and declared himself for an understanding with Hitler.

"The gist of Schleicher's report -- which was given partly by himself, partly by Major Ott, who adduced detailed statistical material -- was that the weakened Reichswehr, which was dispersed over the whole Reich, even if supported by civilian volunteer formations, would not be equal to military operations on a large scale, and was not suited and trained for civil war. The police, in particular the Prussian police, had been undermined by propaganda and could not be considered as absolutely reliable. If the Nazis began an armed revolt, one must anticipate a revolt of the Communists and a general strike at the same time. The forces of these two adversaries were very strong. If such a 'war against two fronts' should take place, the forces of the State would undoubtedly be disrupted. The outcome of a civil war would be at the least most uncertain.

"In his, Schleicher's view, it was impossible to take the risks implied in such a policy. In case of failure, which he believed likely, the consequences for Germany would be terrible. All present in the cabinet meeting were deeply impressed by

[Page 922]

Schleicher's statement, and even those who had been in favor of energetic action against the National Socialists now changed their mind, so that Papen was isolated and felt himself to be isolated.

"In the interview which Papen had with Hindenburg after this meeting, on 17 November 1932 Papen did not conceal his deep disappointment over Schleicher's altered position. Although Hindenburg asked him to make a new attempt to form a government, Papen stood on his decision to resign and Hindenburg gave in."

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