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 9 of 9)

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

[Page 269]

Q. As an explanation I should like to mention that the reform of the constitution which was to do away with the conditions at that time - that government measures were issued solely on the authority of Article 48, the emergency decree. To what extent this took place may be seen in Document 4, which gives a picture of the wealth of emergency decrees which were issued.

Witness, on 6th November, 1932, the election for the Reichstag took place. What was the election slogan of the government and what was your opinion about the result?

A. Unfortunately, we had to vote once again. The programme of my government was the same as it had been before. That is, the attempt to establish a new state leadership, a state leadership resting upon the co-operation of a parliament capable of accomplishing something and an authoritarian government.

In this manifesto to the electors of 4th November, I addressed Hitler, and I told him:

"It is the exclusiveness of your movement, your demand for everything or nothing, which the Reich President could not recognize and which led to his decision of 13th August. What is at stake today is this: the question is not whether this or that party leader occupies the Chancellor's chair, whether his name is Bruning, Hitler or von Papen, but, rather, that we meet on common ground so that the vital interests of the German people can be assured."

[Page 270]

I hoped that through this Reichstag election the National Socialists, whom I was fighting against, would be weakened in such a way that this party would be squeezed out of the central parliamentary position.

Q. What was the result?

A. This result was not achieved. The National Socialists lost 34 seats, but that was not sufficient to crowd them out of their key position, for, again, the formation of a majority in the Reichstag from the Socialists to the extreme Right was possible only with Hitler; without him, no majority.

In order that we might be in a position to continue governing in a constitutional way, I tried once more to negotiate with the various parties and the National Socialists.

Q. Please give us a description of these negotiations.

A. These negotiations are interesting, and the Tribunal must be made familiar with them so that they can judge the events of 30th January, 1933.

First of all, I tried to clear the situation with those parties that were in opposition to my government, and especially with the Social Democrats and with the Centre Party. The Centre Party took an adverse position. It wished a majority government with Hitler, but Hitler did not wish to govern with a parliamentary majority. From Document 2, Page 13, we can see what the attitude of the Centre Party was.

Since Hitler's collaboration for a coalition government was out of the question, I again turned to Hitler in order to ask him whether he was now ready to enter my government. I did this out of a sense of responsibility in order to achieve some sort of result at all, and, therefore, I wrote him the letter dated 13th November, 1932, which is Document D-633, which was submitted by the prosecution as an "undignified" document because after all of my failures, I had once more turned to Hitler. In this letter I said:

"I would consider it a violation of duty if I did not turn to you, in spite of everything, and I am of the opinion that the leader of such a great movement, whose service to the country and the people I always appreciated despite much that I had to criticise, that this leader should not refuse to confer with the responsible statesman."
Q. Then on 8th November you again turned to the foreign Press and spoke to them on foreign political matters -

A. May I interrupt you for a moment? I should like to add here, in regard to the judgement of the letter by the prosecutor Mr. Barrington: it is customary in every parliamentary State that, if the leader of the government turns to the opposition in order to obtain its co-operation, he writes a courteous and cordial letter to the leader of the opposition; that he does not call him an ass. Therefore, I cannot quite see why these remarks of mine are characterised as lacking dignity.

Q. On 8th November, you turned to the foreign Press, and spoke about the revision of the Versailles Treaty. Can you explain briefly the statement you made at that time?

A. I only mention the speech made to the representatives of the foreign Press in order to show to the High Tribunal the frequency of my appeals to foreign countries; appeals - to foreign countries, to the victorious powers - to be willing to undertake a moral reconciliation; for then, gentlemen, the radical tendencies in Germany would have disappeared of their own accord.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: This speech before the foreign Press will be found in Document 1, Pages 11 and 12.


Q. What were the consequences of the failure of your negotiations with the party leaders?

A. The failure of my negotiations with the party leaders and Hitler led to my resignation on 17th November. I was instructed to carry on the affairs of the government until a new government could be formed.

Q. What efforts were made by the Reich President after your resignation toward forming a new government?

[Page 271]

A. My resignation gave the Reich President the opportunity to try once more to form a parliamentary majority.

He immediately tried to do that, and beginning on 18th November, he received all the party leaders, from the Right to the Centre; and on the 19th he received Hitler. The topic was: How can we form a parliamentary majority government? He instructed Hitler to form a majority government. Hitler would then be Chancellor.

On 23rd November, Goering presented Hitler's answer to Hindenburg; it was:

"Hitler could not undertake the formation of a majority government."
On the 24th, Hindenburg received Monsignor Kaas, the leader of the Centre Party. He declared that Hitler had not even tried to find out whether a majority government could be formed, but Monsignor Kaas promised the Reich President to try once more to form a majority government. On 25th November, he reported to Hindenburg that the attempt had been in vain, that the leader of the Nazi faction, at that time Herr Frick, had stated that the Party would not be interested in such discussions. The result: the formation of a majority government with Hitler is impossible.

Q. Did other possibilities for a coalition present themselves? Were there other possibilities for a coalition?

A. No. There was only the possibility of a cabinet such as I had had, or a majority cabinet.

Q. With regard to these negotiations I should like to refer you to Document 2, Pages 14 and 15.

After the discussions between the Reich President and the Party leaders had failed, a conference took place on 1st December between the Reich President and you and General von Schleicher. This consultation was especially important for the future political development, and has a considerable historical character. Therefore I ask you to go into the details of this conversation.

A. The Field Marshal, on 1st December, asked General von Schleicher and me to meet him for a conference. I should like to remark that previously no conversation between Herr von Schleicher and myself about the possibilities for the formation of a future government had taken place.

Herr von Hindenburg asked us about our attitude; I set forth the following:

The attempt to include the Nazi movement into the Presidential Cabinet of Hindenburg had twice failed. Hitler equally refuses to form a majority government. On the other hand, he is exercising a tremendous amount of opposition and is trying to have all my decrees rescinded by the Reichstag. If therefore there is no possibility to form a parliamentary government or to include Hitler into our government without making him Chancellor, then a state of emergency has arisen which requires extraordinary measures. Therefore, I proposed recess of Parliament for several months, immediate preparation of a constitutional reform bill later to be presented to the Reichstag or to a national assembly. This proposal involves a violation of the Constitution. I emphasize that I know how the great soldier and statesman cherishes the sacredness of his oath, but my conscience leads me to believe that a violation of the constitution seems to be justified in view of the extraordinary situation, for which the German Constitution provides no remedy.

Then Herr von Schleicher spoke. He said:

"Field Marshal, I have a plan which will make it unnecessary for you to break your oath to the Constitution, if you are willing to put the government into my hands. I hope that I will be able to obtain a parliamentary majority in the Reichstag by splitting the National Socialist Party."
During the discussion of this plan, I said that it was doubtful to me whether a splitting of the Party, which had sworn loyalty to Hitler, could be achieved. I reminded the Field Marshal of the fact that he should free himself of weak parliamentary majorities through a basic reform.

[Page 272]

However, the proposals were thrown overboard through the solution offered by Schleicher. The solution offered by Schleicher was only a provisional matter, and a very doubtful one.

Q. What was the decision of the Reich President?

A. The decision of the Field Marshal was perhaps the most difficult that he had to make in his long life. Without giving any further reasons, he told me:

"I have decided in favour of the solution of Herr von Papen, and I request you to start immediately negotiations for the formation of a government to which I can give the instructions in accordance with your proposals."
The conference was over.

Q. What did Herr von Schleicher do then?

A. I exchanged only a few brief words with Herr von Schleicher and tried to persuade him to recognize the decision that the Reich President had made. Herr von Schleicher said "no".

Then, the same evening, I started discussions with several ministers with regard to the formation of a new government. These ministers told me, "The plan is excellent, but Herr von Schleicher has told us that we will have a civil war and in that case the Reichswehr will not be in a position to keep law and order in the country."

I interrupted the discussion; called the cabinet together the next morning and presented to it the situation and informed them of Hindenburg's decision. Then I asked Herr von Schleicher to tell the cabinet now why he believed that there would be a civil war, and why the Reichswehr would not be in a position to keep law and order in the country. Herr von Schleicher called on one of his general staff officers to tell the cabinet that this case had been considered from a practical and theoretical point of view and that they had come to the decision that the Reichswehr and police were not in a position to keep law and order in the country.

Then I said to the gentlemen, "This is a new situation which I have to report to the Reich President."

I went to Hindenburg and reported to him. Herr von Hindenburg, deeply stirred about my report, said to me, "I am an old man, and I cannot face a civil war of any sort in my country. If Herr von Schleicher is of this opinion, then I must - as much as I regret - withdraw the task with which I charged you last night."

With that, Herr von Schleicher was appointed Chancellor on the conditions which he had offered to the Reich President at this meeting.

Q. Did Herr von Schleicher offer you the post of Ambassador at Paris?

A. Herr von Schleicher, who for a long time knew of my interest in German-French relations, asked me whether I wanted to become Ambassador in Paris. This would have been quite in accordance with my inclinations. But the Reich President objected to this, and -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Dr. Kubuschok, the Tribunal thinks that this is going in far too great detail into all this, all of which is known through history, and most of which we have heard before.


Q. Now we shall turn to the year 1933. On 4th January a conference between Hitler and you took place at the home of the banker, Schroder. The prosecution is presenting this conference as the actual beginning of your common conspiracy. Please give the Tribunal a description of how this conference came about.

A. I was -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Dr. Kubuschok, we have been hearing for the whole of the afternoon the background of the conference. Surely we can hear of the conference now.

[Page 273]

DR. KUBUSCHOK: The defendant is charged with the fact that he was the promoter of the negotiations, which supposedly started on 4th January, for the formation of the government formed on 30th January. The role which von Papen played in it is of decisive importance. Therefore, I consider it necessary that he tell us briefly about the background -

THE PRESIDENT: The negotiations did not start on the 4th of January. The defendant told us earlier, about a couple of hours ago, that they started on the 12th of August, 1932. The negotiations started earlier than this.

THE WITNESS: I may perhaps quite briefly say, Mr. President, what it concerns. This conference on 4th January, on the occasion of which the prosecution asserts that I pledged myself to National Socialism, was a conference which took place on the initiative of Hitler. At this conference, nothing was said about the overthrow of the government of von Schleicher; and there was nothing said about the formation of a government by Hitler, as it later actually took place on Seth January. We merely discussed the necessity for Hitler to decide to take a responsible part, not as Chancellor, but with his Party. And, my Lord, that I did not engineer or cause this conference to be called may he seen clearly from the statement of Herr von Schroder, at whose home this conference took place.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: This may be seen from Document 9, Page 26.


Q. Witness, you are accused of the fact that in this conference you discussed plans for the overthrow of the cabinet of von Schleicher. Did you keep the fact of this conference from Herr von Schleicher?

A. On the contrary. Immediately after this conference at Cologne, I wrote a letter to Herr von Schleicher, which must have reached him the next morning. And after I had returned to Berlin, I went at once to Herr von Schleicher and told him just what had been discussed at this conference. Thereupon, Herr von Schleicher caused an official communique to be issued. Document 9.

Q. 9A - I submit Document 9A.

A. In this document it says

"The conversation revealed the complete lack of foundation for the assertions deduced from this meeting by the Press about controversies between the Reich Chancellor von Schleicher and Herr von Papen."
Q. Did you then, that is, during the time until 22nd January, participate in any political discussions about the formation of a new government?

A. No. Between 9th and 22nd January I did not participate in any political discussions about the formation of a government.

Q. Please give us a short summary of the political development from 10th until 21st January.

A. The prosecution asserts that now, in the interval between 9th and 30th January, I was the chief factor in forming the government of Hitler on 30th January. A chronological recapitulation of the days between the 11th and the 30th will reveal how completely wrong this assertion of the prosecution actually is. Therefore, I shall have to mention a few dates in this connection.

On 11th January: Hitler is in Berlin. He did not see von Schleicher, von Hugenberg, or von Papen. But the Reichstag decided through the Council of Elders:

"We have to give a reprieve to the government of von Schleicher."
On 13th January: Schleicher receives Hugenberg, the chief of the Right Wing movement.

On the 14th: Hindenburg receives Hugenberg.

Later on we shall see that on both of these days, Hugenberg, the leader of the Right, negotiated with von Schleicher about his entry into the cabinet, not about the formation of a government with Hitler.

[Page 274]

Then on 15th January, the well-known Lippe elections took place. The Lippe elections gave the National Socialists a new impetus.

On 20th January, the Reichstag, the Council of Elders decided to postpone their meeting from the 24th to 31st.

The State Secretary of the Reich Government, Schleicher, declared in this connection: "The Reich Government intends to clear the political situation as quickly as possible, but the Reich Government is not interested in majority questions."

From that can be seen that Herr von Schleicher no longer considered the formation of a government on the basis of a majority.

Q. Now we can leave the political developments and turn to your personal -

THE PRESIDENT: If you are going into another subject, we had better adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, Monday, 17th June, 1946.)

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