The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Franz Von Papen

(Part 8 of 15)

[Page 928]

(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

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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

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"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

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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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