The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Franz Von Papen

(Part 13 of 15)

[Page 942]

(2) Von Papen proceeded forthwith to accomplish his mission -- the maintenance of an outward appearance of non- intervention while keeping appropriate contacts useful in the eventual overthrow of the Austrian Government. Throughout the earlier period of his mission to Austria, von Papen's activity was characterized by the assiduous avoidance of any appearance of intervention. His true mission was reaffirmed with clarity, several months after its commencement, when he was instructed by Berlin that "during the next two years nothing can be undertaken which will give Germany external political difficulties" Every "appearance" of German interference in Austrian affairs "must be avoided" (1760-PS). As von Papen himself stated to Berger-Waldenegg, the Austrian Foreign Minister:

"Yes, you have your French and English friends now and you can have your independence a little longer." (1760- PS).

Throughout this period, the Nazi movement was gaining strength in Austria without openly-admitted German intervention, and Germany needed more time to consolidate its diplomatic position. These reasons for German policy were frankly expressed by the German Foreign Minister von Neurath in conversation with the American Ambassador to France

Von Papen accordingly restricted his public activity to the normal ambassadorial function of cultivating all respectable elements in Austria and ingratiating himself in these circle particularly if they were well-disposed (but not too obviously) to notions of Pan-Germanism. In these efforts he was particularly careful to exploit his background as a former professional officer and a Catholic (1760-PS).

Meanwhile, however, the Austrian Nazis continued illegal organization in anticipation of he possibility of securing their

[Page 943]

objectives by force if necessary. In these efforts they were aided by Germany, which permitted the outlawed Austrian Nazis to meet and perfect their plots within Germany and with German Nazi assistance; which harbored the Austrian Legion; which made funds-available to National Socialists in Austria; and which established appropriate contact with them through the Reich Propaganda Ministry and through "respectable" Austrian "front" personalities (1760-PS; 812- PS). (See also Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.)

Von Papen was fully aware of the existence and activities of these groups, and of their potentialities in effecting an Anschluss. Thus, in a report to Hitler dated 27 July 1935, entitled "Reflections on the Anniversary of Dollfuss' Death" he reviewed the activities of these illegal groups and concluded that National Socialism could "certainly become the rallying point of all racially German units beyond the borders" In this report he declared:

"The Third Reich will be with Austria, or it will not be at all. National Socialism must win it or it will perish, if it is unable to solve this task." (2248-PS).

These sentiments concerning the role of National Socialism were something more than idle speculation. Von Papen knew that the presence of the Austrian Legion in Germany in itself produced incidents, and that the Austrian Nazi movement was dependent on German support. He has so testified (at an interrogation in Nurnberg, 13 October 1945). In fact, despite his facade of strict non- intervention, he remained in contact with subversive and potentially subversive elements within Austria. Thus, in a report to Hitler dated 17 May 1935 he advised concerning the Austrian Nazi strategy as proposed by Captain Leopold, leader of the illegal Austrian Nazis (2247-PS). In subsequent statements he has revealed his modus operandi in the use of his embassy staff. This method provided him with an opportunity to disclaim responsibility if these activities should be questioned. Thus, his military attache, Mutz, "maintained good relations with the Army circles which were inclined towards National Socialism" Von Papen's all- around contact man with the Austrian Nazis was a member of his staff, Baron von Kettler, who "had always maintained intimate contact with a group of young Austrian National Socialists who, as we both agreed, had a conservative coating and fought for a healthy development within the Party" The practical effect of these contacts has been clarified in questioning of von Papen (at Nurnberg, 8 October 1945):

" *** A. As I told you, I charged one of my younger

[Page 944]

people of the Embassy, von Kettler -- he was made the go-between with these Nazi people, to smooth them down and talk with them. Personally I had not very much to do with them.

"Q. Well, I know that. That is what you always said. But the result of your time in Austria was that their interests were furthered through your office. Whether you did it personally or somebody working for you did it, I don't think it is too important for what we have in mind here tonight; do you?

"Q. Now, isn't it a fact that their interests were furthered through your office, if not through you as an individual during those years that you were there?

"A. Yes, I wanted to know about their doings, you see. I must have been informed what was going on."

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