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 8 of 9)

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

[Page 265]

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Exhibit 4, my Lord.
" ... just as little was this possible with the solemn obligations which were undertaken by the then governing parties in the name of the German people. The present government simply had to liquidate a situation which had been created by all the former governments since the signing of the Versailles Treaty. The question as to whether this situation can be liquidated by Germany denying the validity of her signature and thus, at the same time, placing herself outside the conception of cultural and other standards, must be answered with an emphatic 'no'."
In mentioning this quotation, I should like to point out that this attitude under the then prevailing situation and especially in view of the propaganda by the NSDAP, is especially noteworthy.


Q. On the 18th of July, 1932, the Reich Minister of the Interior decreed a general ban on demonstrations after, as you have already said, on the 16th June, the ban on uniforms had been lifted for National Socialists. What were the reasons for the new ban on demonstrations?

A. The condition under which Hindenburg had rescinded the ban on uniforms for the SA was not met. Election campaigns became more and more radical and therefore I decided to suggest to the Reich President a decree prohibiting demonstrations. Contrary to the degree banning the uniforms, this decree applied to all parties equally. Therefore, it did not only prohibit the SA but all fighting formations of the other parties.

Q. Now I shall turn to the 20th of July, '32. The prosecution calls your action on that date a "coup d'etat". The witness Severing has also fully elaborated on that point. What was the reason for your action an the 20th of July, 1932?

A. The action was based on the necessity of restoring orderly conditions. I had received reports about the co-operation of the police department of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior with the Communists. The situation of the Reich Government in Berlin must in this case be specifically taken into consideration and I do not know whether the High Tribunal is cognizant of the legal position. The Reich Government at Berlin was not an extra territorial area such as obtains in the

[Page 266]

United States in Washington, D.C.; but it lay within the police power of the Prussian State. My own protection, that is, the protection of the Reich Chancellor, lay in the hands of the Prussian police. If, therefore, combinations with the Communists were made in the Prussian police ministry, then this affected the security of the Reich Government. This action against the Prussian Government did by no means constitute an action against Socialism as such. Neither did a Nazification of the Republican police take place, as the witness Severing testified here. The officials, with the exception of a few higher officials, remained completely unchanged. How I regarded the situation there, I made known to the German people in a radio speech on the evening of the 20th of July. The High Tribunal will find this speech in Document 1, Page 4. However, I shall forgo the reading of this speech.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should further like to point to Document 2, which I wish to submit as Exhibit 5. I should like to point out on Page 15, the part where the defendant von Papen gives his account about the necessity of this measure.


Q. Was this action of yours on the 20th of July brought before the highest German tribunal, the German Supreme Court, and was any decision made?

A. Yes. The Prussian cabinet brought an action against the Reich Government before the Reich Supreme Court at Leipzig; there the matter was properly argued and judgement passed. This sentence upheld entirely the action of the Reich President. It is therefore impossible for the prosecution to characterise this matter as a "Putsch".

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should like to call your attention to Document 8, which I wish to submit as Exhibit 6. This is an extract - I beg your pardon.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, is it necessary for you to give the document exhibit numbers different from the document numbers? You see, it becomes a little bit confusing. Each one of these documents has, at the head of the document, a number, 1, 2, 3 and so forth, and they follow each other -

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I should like to acquiesce in the suggestion of the High Tribunal and retain the same number. Therefore, Document 5 shall become Exhibit 5.

THE PRESIDENT: That would be much less confusing, I think, if you could.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes, indeed, my Lord. This Exhibit 5 is an extract from the verdict of the State Supreme Court, dated the 20th of October, 1932. On Page 19, at the beginning, is the judgement which says that the decree of the Reich President of the 20th of July, 1932, was entirely legal.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Document 8 will be Exhibit 8, will it not?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes. This is No. 5, your Honour. If I said 8, I made a mistake. It is No. 5.

THE PRESIDENT: It is quite clear, anyhow, that the exhibit numbers will be the same as the document numbers.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Yes, your Honour; they will be identical.

THE PRESIDENT: And you are now on Document 5, Exhibit 5.



Q. How did the Prussian Government, and specifically Prime Minister President Braun, react to this judgement of the Supreme Court?

A. The Prussian Government and the Prussian Prime Minister President absolutely accepted the judgement, which became apparent from the discussions which I personally had later on in October with the Prussian Minister President.

[Page 267]

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Regarding the position taken by the Prussian Government, I should like to submit Document 86, which is contained in Volume 3 of my Document Book, which, however, because of technical difficulties, is not completely translated and cannot be submitted today.


Q. Witness, on the 29th of July, 1932, you had an interview with a United Press Correspondent and you stated in detail your position on the armament problem. Since this topic is of special significance for your case and your defence, I should like to have your comment on this matter.

A. I should like to clarify my attitude on the armament question, for it is the same which I held at the time when I was Vice-Chancellor in the government of Hitler. I should like to refer to Document 1, which sets forth my interview to the United Press, and I will quote from Document 86, which is the radio speech which I made on 12th September. On that occasion I said:

"We want disarmament - "
Q. (Interposing). Perhaps, witness, you could just give us the contents in a few words.

A. If the Tribunal would like to check on the contents of my speech, in Document 86, the Tribunal will find that I was speaking for disarmament and for peace. On that occasion I appealed to the major Powers and told them-and I would like to quote this sentence:

"In these days Germany is undertaking a gigantic attempt, through the mobilization of her last internal reserves, to bring about work and social peace. That gives us a right to expect that the leading statesmen of the major Powers, now, for their part, will decide to bring to an end the poisoning of foreign political relations through agreements which cannot be kept."
DR. KUBUSCHOK: On 31st July 1932, the Reichstag election took place. First of all, I should like to submit a diagram in which the election results of the various elections held in the years 1930 to 1933 are tabulated. This is Exhibit 98, which I hereby submit. From the figures shown there we can see the internal political development of Germany.


Q. Witness, what was the result and what were the political conclusions you drew from the result of the elections?

A. On the eve of the elections, on the 30th of July, I spoke to the United States and I said:

"The world does not realize that Germany is confronted with a civil war. The world did not help us to overcome our difficulties at Lausanne, and it is unbearable that fourteen years after the end of the war there is no equality of rights for us."
The election of 30th July brought more than a doubling of the Nazi votes, from 6.4. million to 13.7 million votes. 230 members of the Reichstag as opposed to 110.

The conclusions to be drawn from the results of this election were that no majority could be formed from the extreme Right to the Social Democrats without the NSDAP. With that, the Party had achieved a parliamentary key position.

The prosecution is trying to interpret the increase of the Nazi vote to the rescission of the ban on uniforms. That is an explanation which is altogether too simple. Actually, the ban on uniforms was lifted from 16th June till 18th July, for one month. And already two weeks prior to the election I had issued a decree prohibiting demonstrations. The real reason for the increase in the Nazi votes was the desperate economic situation of Germany and the fact of the general disappointment about the lack of foreign political successes at Lausanne.

Q. Now, what was your conclusion from the results of this election?

A. The conclusion I drew was the same opinion which I had held before. On the next day I gave an interview to the Associated Press, and through this interview I told the entire world

[Page 268]

"The National Socialists have to be given responsibility, and when that has been done we have to bring about a reform of the Constitution."
DR. KUBUSCHOK: I refer you, regarding these historical facts, to Exhibit 1 which has already been submitted, and especially to Pages 4, 5 and 6.


Q. Witness, please tell the Tribunal briefly about your negotiations with Hitler.

A. I had a long discussion with Hitler on 12th August. I impressed upon him the necessity of his participation, and my own readiness to resign as Chancellor in a few months if the co-operation would prove successful, and after von Hindenburg had gained confidence in Hitler.

Of the political parties, the Right Wing parties, as is well known, had supported my cabinet. The Zentrum Party was in opposition. Now, after these elections, the Zentrum Party wanted Hitler as Chancellor, but Hitler himself did not want to become the head of a majority government.

The correctness of my statements is shown in Document 1, Page 6, the first paragraph, last line. I quote:

"Kaas, the leader of the Zentrum Party, demands a so-called total solution of this crisis by the full responsible participation of the former opposition in the Reich Government."
I made an offer to Hitler that he should enter my cabinet as Vice-Chancellor. Hitler declined. On the next day, we continued with our negotiations in the presence of the Reich President.

Hitler voiced the demand to the Reich President to join the government with his movement, but only on the condition that he himself be appointed Chancellor. And this may be seen in this document on page 6.

Q. It is Document 1, Page 6, your Honour.

A. The Reich President did not believe that he should transfer complete authority to Hitler and rejected his proposal. At this point, our efforts of drawing National Socialism into a responsible government activity had failed.

Q. The defendant von Papen voiced his opinion about this in a speech at Munich, which can be found in the Document Book, Exhibit 1, Pages 10 and 11.

After the failure of these negotiations, the National Socialists entered into the most intense opposition against the government. Did this in any way change your basic course?

A. The oppositional attitude of the Nazis against my government did not change my basic course at all. I spoke fully about this matter at Munster on 28th August.

Q. This speech may be found in Document 1, Exhibit 1, Page 7. And on this page I would also like to call your attention to a report on a judgement of a special court at Beuthen. There the first death sentence was passed on the basis of the terror decree of 9th August. This terror decree with which the prosecution wishes to incriminate the defendant von Papen resulted in the death sentence against five National Socialists.

On the 4th September you issued an emergency decree to revitalise economy. As this decree is the nucleus of your government's activity in the solution of economic problems, I should like to have your comment on this emergency decree.

A. I have already discussed this emergency decree and stated that it involved a programme involving 2.2 billion Reichsmarks with the aim of creating work for one and three-fourths million workers. We made this gigantic effort without increasing our foreign debt by a penny. It was, if I may characterise it in these words, the straining of our utmost with our last reserves of strength. The success became already noticeable in the first month through a decrease of 123,000 unemployed.

Q. In one month?

A. Yes, in one month.

Q. Within this general labour procurement programme was rearmament contemplated?

[Page 269]

A. Not at all. My government did not spend a penny for rearmament.

Q. The details of this emergency decree may be found in Document 1, Pages 8 and 9.

Why was there another dissolution of the Reichstag on 12th September. What did you say about this on that evening over the radio?

A. The new Reichstag met according to the constitution. My government, as I have already said, could not obtain a majority, but the formation of any other government without Hitler was quite impossible. Therefore, I was justified in the hope that this Reichstag would give my government a reprieve in which to prove itself, especially as I had submitted to it a comprehensive and decisive economic programme. But now something unexpected and unheard of happened.

The thing that happened was, so to speak, the prostitution of the German Parliament. Herr Goering, the President of the German Reichstag, gave to the Communist delegate, Clara Zetkin, the floor for a vehement attack on my government. When I, the responsible Chancellor of this government, asked for the floor in order to give an account on what I wanted to do, I was not allowed to speak, and the Reichstag President asked for a vote on a motion of no confidence brought in by the Communists, the Socialists and the National Socialists. The fact of this concerted motion on the part of the three parties should really show you what would have taken place in Germany if these three parties had ruled in Germany together, and should show how imperative it was for me to try not to push National Socialism towards the Left Wing, but to bring it into my government instead.

I was forced to put the order for the dissolution of the Reichstag on the table, and to leave.

Q. These historic facts may be found in Document 1, Page 8, and the document which I have already referred to without having submitted it, Document 86, Page 192.

In a speech in Munich, on 12th October, you also dealt with the question of reforming the Constitution. Please tell us briefly just what opinion you voiced on that occasion.

A. The reform of the Constitution, as I have already mentioned, was one of the most urgent aims of my government. The reasons for it are set forth in this document on Page 9. This reform was to include an electoral reform, in order to end the multiplicity of parties, and the creation of an Upper House. Above all, it was to give the government more authority, and more possibilities to govern than was possible under the Weimar Constitution.

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