The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Fifty-Fifth Day: Friday, 14th June, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)

[DR. KUBUSCHOK continues his direct examination of Franz von Papen]

[Page 261]

Q. Did the intention to govern authoritatively bring about a struggle of the parties?

A. Field Marshal Hindenburg had great confidence in Bruning, but he did not forgive him for failing to succeed in winning the Right Wing parties for the re-election of Hindenburg as President in 1932, which had elected Hindenburg for the first time in 1925. At that time Hindenburg had been elected against the passionate opposition of the Left and the Centre. Now, in 1932, he was to be elected precisely by these Left Wing parties which had opposed him and against the Right.

Against the old, great soldier of the World War, the opposing candidate was an unknown soldier of the Stahlhelm. This, of course, hurt the Field Marshal deeply. I wish to point out that in the presidential election in 1932 Hitler had already received over 11,000,000 votes, which was more than 30 per cent of the total German vote for president.

Why the President chose me as Chancellor, I do not know. I can only say that I myself did not lift a finger.

The course of events was as follows:

I am saying this, my Lord, in order to answer the charge that this formation of a cabinet was the beginning of an intrigue and a conspiracy.

On 26th May, 1932, I was at my estate in the Saar. Herr won Schleicher, the Defence Minister, called me up there and asked me to come to Berlin. On the evening of the 27th I arrived in Berlin. On the 28th I went to see Herr von Schleicher. Herr von Schleicher said to me: "There is a cabinet crisis; we are looking for a Chancellor." He discussed various personalities with me, and finally he said: "The President would like to have you." I was greatly astonished, and I said, "Why?" - I then asked for time to think it over. On the next day I discussed the whole matter with my friends. On the 30th I went to see Herr von Schleicher again. I said to him: "I have decided not to accept." Herr won Schleicher said: "That won't do you any good, the President wants you under all circumstances." I answered Herr won Schleicher: "The President probably has a wrong conception of the political strength which I would bring to him for this government; he probably thinks that the Zentrum would support me politically. But that is out of question."

On the afternoon of this day I went to see the head of the Zentrum Party. I asked him and he said: "Herr von Papen, do not accept the office; the Party would immediately oppose you." I said: "Thank you, that is what I thought."

I then went to see Hindenburg and presented the situation to him. Hindenburg stood up and said: "I did not call you because I wanted the support of any party through you; I called you because I want a cabinet of independent men." Then he reminded me of my duty toward the Fatherland. When I continued to contradict him, he said: "You cannot leave me, an old soldier, in the lurch when I need you." I said: "No, under these circumstances I will not leave you in the lurch; I will accept." As proof for that discussion -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, the Tribunal thinks this might be dealt with in slightly less detail. The facts could be stated with less detail.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: We will act accordingly.

[Page 262]

As proof for the talk with the Zentrum I refer to Document Book I, Document 1, Page 1. I submit Document Book I as Exhibit No. 1.


Q. Witness, you have been accused of having intrigued against Bruning in some way. Is that true?

A. In no way. I have already said that I had a very high opinion of Dr. Bruning personally, and that from the day when Herr von Schleicher called me in - that is, three days before my appointment - I never had the slightest idea of being proposed as Bruening's successor.

Q. Did you talk to Hitler before and about the government to be formed by you?

A. No, that is a completely false imputation on the part of the prosecution. The "History of the NSDAP," by Volz, in which that is stated - and that is Document 3463-PS - is a purely private work and was probably prepared by Goebbels and his Ministry.

I state that my government, according to the wish of the Reich President, was to be created by a fait accompli, without any negotiations with any party or the head of any party.

Q. You did not promise Hitler the dissolution of the Reichstag beforehand either?

A. This statement of the prosecution is also untrue. I did not previously discuss the dissolution of the Reichstag with Hitler, for the Reichstag was dissolved on 4th June, and I saw Hitler for the first time in my life five or six days later. The dissolution of the Reichstag, as such, was a matter of course, because the new government wished to have the opinion of the electors on the new course and on the government's programme.

Q. What were the political aims of your cabinet? Please state this briefly.

A. The central problem which occupied us was the economic one: the big economic crisis and the one and a half million unemployed young people, the six to seven million completely unemployed, and the twelve to thirteen million altogether only partly employed. Attempts of my predecessors to help with purely State means proved inadequate. They were a burden on finances and had no result. The aim of my government, therefore, was to employ private economy to solve this problem. We wanted to bring the whole production machinery into working order again. With the investment of 2.2 billion marks we wanted to put this process into operation and expected to return into the production process one and three-quarter million workers in the current year.

Such a programme could not have been reconciled with the parties. The political aim was, to achieve simultaneously with the re-organization of the economy, the practical co-operation of the strongest of the opposition parties, the NSDAP. That was the central problem of the German internal policy. It had been shown, through National Socialist governments in Thuringia, in Brunswick, and in Oldenburg, that this attempt could be made without being exposed to the danger of revolutionary movements. I could hope, therefore, through a national and social programme, to find the approval of the Reichstag.

Q. For the government's statement, I refer to Document 1, Exhibit 1, Pages 2 and 3.

You spoke of the solution of the social problem as the main task of your government. Will you please explain briefly how you regarded the problem and how you attempted to solve it?

A. In no country in the world, I believe, was the problem of capital and labour as great as it was in Germany, as a result of over-industrialisation and alienation from the soil. The reason is known; I need not speak of it. However, one of the reasons, which is generally overlooked, was the German inflation which had devaluated all fortunes in Germany. This inflation had deprived the middle class and the workers, who form the backbone of the nation, of their savings and fortunes and it had proletarianized the workers, tradesmen and the middle class.

[Page 263]

Simultaneously with the social processes in Germany, a new social order had arisen in our great neighbouring country, the order of a classless society and the totalitarian State. The democratic powers of the world resisted the export of this system. They took protective measures in the economic field, but these protective measures, the "New Deal," and "Ottawa," weakened the German position all the more.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, I think the defendant must realize that this is all very familiar ground to the Tribunal, and it is not necessary to restate it in detail.

THE WITNESS: I only wanted to explain to the Tribunal that this social problem was the basis for the whole historical development.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: The question of the social problem is at the same time a question of the development of the NSDAP, and the witness is going to comment later from this point of view.


Q. Witness, you said a little while ago that you had no contact with Hitler before the formation of the government. When did you see Hitler for the first time and what agreements did you reach?

A. I have already said that I saw Hitler for the first time on the 9th or 10th of June. The aim of the talk was to determine under what conditions Hitler would be willing to tolerate my government. My programme contained so many points in the social field that an approval of that programme by the National Socialists was to be expected. Hitler's condition for such an approval of the government programme was the lifting of the ban on uniforms for the SS; that is, the political equalisation of his party with the other parties.

I agreed to that at that time; all the more so as the ban of the SS by the Bruning government was an obvious injustice. The SS had been prohibited, but the uniformed formations of the Socialists and the Communists, that is the "Rotfront" and the "Reichsbanner," had not been prohibited.

The result of my promise to Hitler was that Hitler bound himself to tolerate my government.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should like to correct a mistake made by the witness. He spoke of the "SS," and meant "SA." There was no SS at that time.

I refer to Document 1, Page 3, which is a statement of the President concerning the lifting of the ban against the SA. The President points out that he decreed the lifting of this ban under the express condition that there would be no more acts of violence in the future. He says furthermore that he was determined ... that he would use all constitutional means at his disposal to act against all violations of any kind if this expectation was not met.


Q. Will you, witness, make a brief statement concerning your efforts and the course of the Lausanne Conference in June, 1932, which had such a great influence on the growth of the NSDAP?

A. I ask for permission to go somewhat more into detail about this conference, because the result was closely connected with the enormous increase of the NSDAP immediately thereafter. This conference had been prepared long beforehand, as is known. It was to abolish reparations.

But I went to Lausanne with many other aims and hopes. The abolition of reparations was, so to speak, a "cause jugee". But what was necessary was to remove Germany's moral discomfort, if Europe was to return to its well-being in a peaceful order. This moral dissatisfaction had many causes. Germany had become a "second-rate nation". It had been deprived of important attributes of its sovereignty; no military sovereignty; the Rhineland unprotected; the Corridor, the Saar, and others.

[Page 264]

I have already described the economic conditions. These economic and political difficulties helped to advance political radicalism, and the extremists increased in every election.

If, therefore, help was to be forthcoming, then not merely the reparations' question had to be solved - that was a negative help - but positive, moral aid had to come. My programme was the restoration of the sovereignty of the Reich. In the first place, the famous Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty was to be struck out. That was the article which stated Germany's sole responsibility for the war. Historians of all countries had long established that we were not the only ones responsible. In the second place, relations with France based on confidence were to be established.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, the Tribunal does not think that this really is very important for them.

THE WITNESS: I shall briefly -

DR. KUBUSCHOK: May I explain quite generally that the events of 1932, the internal and foreign political events, formed the key for judging the growth of the NSDAP, which, after all, led to the 30th of January, 1933. When we discuss various questions here, we will revert to them when we discuss the events of 1933 I believe then we will save time. Therefore, I ask that the discussion of this period be permitted in somewhat greater detail.

THE WITNESS: I will make it as brief as possible, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we had better go on, as you suggest, to 1933. Is that not what you were suggesting, that you should go on to 1933, and then possibly come back to 1932, if it is necessary?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: No, that is not what I suggested. I said that the discussion of conditions in 1932 provides the key for the growth of the NSDAP and the formation of the Hitler government.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes; but the defendant has been discussing the conditions of 1932 for a long time now. Surely we can get on to something which has something to do with the National Socialist Party.

THE WITNESS: I will come to that immediately, Mr. President. I only wanted to say that I took up these subjects at Lausanne and tried to find there an understanding for the internal situation in Germany. I negotiated with the French Prime Minister Herriot about the cancellation of that famous article. I negotiated a pact with him, but nothing came out of all this, for reasons which I do not want to discuss any further. The final result of the conference of Lausanne, at any rate, was negative, so that the elections which were subsequently held -


Q. What was your point of view in the armament question?

A. I had fixed my point of view in the armament question, which played a role even in the year 1933, already at that time in Lausanne .... I had discussed it with the Prime Minister MacDonald and M. Herriot. Later, in an interview, I discussed this point of view with Herriot so that it is on record. It is Document 55. In this document I said that it was not a question of German rearmament, but a question of the fulfilment of the disarmament promise of the other nations. Nothing is said about German rearmament but only about German equality and equal treatment for Germany.

I need not quote this document. It is in the hands of the Tribunal - Document 55.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I submit Document 55 as Exhibit 55, and further refer to Document 1, which has already been submitted, on Page 9, and Document 6, which I submitted as Exhibit 3, and refer to Page 22.

THE WITNESS: At the conclusion of the Lausanne Conference, I told MacDonald and Herriot, "You must provide me with a foreign political success, for my government is the last civil government in Germany. After me there will be

[Page 265]

only extremists from the Right and the Left." But they did not believe me, and I returned from Lausanne with only a partial success.

THE PRESIDENT: I think this would be a good time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. Witness, you said that the outcome of the Lausanne Conference did not come up to your expectations. Why did you, in spite of that, sign the Treaty of Lausanne?

A. In the first place, I had to sign it, because otherwise the conference would have ended in a complete failure and Germany would have been confronted with an economic vacuum. Then, we were directly confronted with the Reichstag election and I had to try to make the best of the situation.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: In connection with this question, I should like to submit Document 7, to become Papen Exhibit 4. This document is a statement by von Papen, in the Trier Landeszeitung on 12th July, 1932, about Lausanne. I take the liberty of reading a short extract in which Papen says:

"But just as little as we are unable to erase by a one-sided act the signatures given since 1918 by former governments, just as little was this possible with the solemn obligations - "
THE PRESIDENT: Which is this document? No. 7, you say?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Document 7, yes; Page 23 in Document Book 1.

THE PRESIDENT: You are submitting it as No. 4?

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