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-Sixth Day: Monday, 17th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 275]

MARSHAL: If it please the Tribunal, report is made that the defendants Fritsche and Speer are absent.



B Y DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Witness, on Friday you told the Tribunal that during the well-known conversation with Hitler on 4th January, 1933, at the home of Schroder, you did not discuss the question of the formation of the cabinet which took place later, on 30th January. You also said that up to 22nd January you did not take part in any political discussion. The prosecution, however, asserts that you influenced the Reich President to appoint Hitler as Chancellor on 30th of January. Did you influence Hindenburg to that effect?

A. Before I reply, may I make a brief correction? Your Lordship asked me on Friday for the date of the evacuation of Jerusalem. I said it was 1918, but of course, your Lordship was right, it was in 1917. I beg your pardon.

Now in reply to your question: I did not exert any such influence on Reich President von Hindenburg. The political situation, as we shall see, left the Reich President only the choice between a violation of the Constitution and a Hitler cabinet.

Furthermore, and I already mentioned this at the conclusion of the last session, from the historical events of January, described in Document 9, Pages 27 to 31, it is quite plain that during the entire month of January until the 22nd, negotiations took place almost daily, without my participation, between the Reich Government and the various parties or between the parties themselves; all of these negotiations were concerned with the possible formation of a majority in the Reichstag, but all of them remained without result. I have explained that the Reich Chancellor, von Schleicher, was trying to obtain a majority in the Reichstag by splitting the Party. This attempt, too, finally failed on 20th January, and that was obvious to the world, for on that day the Reich Chancellor authorized a statement in the Reichstag to the effect that he no longer attached importance to forming a majority in the Reichstag.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: In this connection, I should like to refer to Document 9 in the first Document Book. I shall just read a few extracts from this document, Document 9, Page 27. The heading is:

"11th January, Reich Chancellor von Schleicher receives leader of the German People's Party, Dingeldey."
On the next page, Page 28, is proof that on 12th January efforts to split the NSDAP through Strasser had not yet been abandoned. I shall quote from the beginning of the page:
"At the same time it has only now become known that the Reich President received Gregor Strasser last week for a conference. Strasser apparently expressed his intention of keeping in the background for the time being; only in the event of an unexpectedly quick conflict between Hitler and Schleicher's Reich cabinet would Strasser be likely to play a definite part."

[Page 276]

In the meantime, the Lippe elections took place and gave a clear picture of the development of the NSDAP.

I am quoting now from the middle of the paragraph under 15th January:

"The electoral victory of the NSDAP not only surprisingly refutes the assertions of the opposition concerning a decline of the National Socialist movement, but is also a proof that the stagnation of the movement has been entirely overcome, and that a new upward development of it has now begun."
Significant aspect of his efforts to obtain a parliamentary majority was Schleicher's negotiations with the Centre Party, led by Prelate Dr. Kaas.

I quote from the last paragraph on Page 28:

"Reich Chancellor von Schleicher receives Prelate Dr. Kaas, chairman of the Centre Party, for a lengthy conference.

"In regard to the predictions of a reorganisation of the cabinet, the fiction is kept up in government circles that a Strasser-Hugenberg-Stegerwald combination is possible, despite the difficulties which these plans have undoubtedly encountered. Privy Councillor Hugenberg is said to have made it a condition that membership of the cabinet should be guaranteed for at least one year."

On the next page, Page 29, I would like to refer to the last ten lines or so of the statement of State Secretary Plank in the Council of Senior Members of the Reichstag.
"In the conversations referred to, the National Socialists are to assume the lead and to attempt to form with members of all groups, from the National Socialists to the Centre Group, a party with a majority. This was attempted at the end of 1932, but failed to materialise. The conduct of these negotiations, in which the Schleicher Cabinet is in no way involved, rests with Hitler. If, on the 31st of January, the Reichstag should be summoned and a conflict arise between Government and Reichstag, or if such a conflict is brought about by other events, the proclamation of the often discussed 'state of emergency' must, to an increased extent, be expected. The Government would then dissolve the Reichstag and decree the new elections to take place in the early autumn."
Finally, I should like to refer to the first heading on the following page -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, the Tribunal does not think it necessary to read all this detail. It is evident from the headlines of these entries that there were political negotiations which led to the assumption of power by the National Socialist Party. Is not that all that you want to say?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I want to prove that the formation of the government on the 30th of January was an inevitable solution arising out of the political and parliamentary incidents of the day. Therefore, it is of relevance to note what took place at the time what attempts failed, what other possibilities existed, and what -

THE PRESIDENT: What I mean is this. It appears, does it not, from the headlines of these entries, really? You can read the headlines without reading the details. For example, on Page 30, the entry on 21st January, and those other entries, give the substance of the matter.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: All right, Mr. President. May I then be permitted to read Page 31, part of the text describing the historical events of the overthrow of Chancellor Schleicher on the 28th? Regarding the decisive conversation between the Reich Chancellor and the Reich President the following was officially announced:

"Reich Chancellor von Schleicher submitted to the Reich President today his report on the situation, and declared that the present Reich Cabinet, on account of its character as a minority government, would be in a position to represent its programme and its standpoint in the Reichstag only if the Reich President placed the dissolution order at the Chancellor's disposal. Reich President von Hindenburg stated that, in view of the prevailing situation, he

[Page 277]

could not accept this proposition. Reich Chancellor von Schleicher thereupon submitted the collective resignation of the Reich Cabinet, which the Reich President accepted; the cabinet being entrusted with the task of continuing provisionally to discharge official business."
As proof of the fact that the possibility of Hitler forming a parliamentary government did not exist, I want to refer to a brief extract on Page 32:
"National Socialist sources again state categorically that for the National Socialists only a Hitler Government can be considered. Any other attempts towards a solution must be prevented with the utmost vigour. This, of course, applies to a Papen cabinet, but a Schacht cabinet also is out of the question."
I should like now to refer to the next document, Document 8. In this document all the possibilities for the formation of a government are discussed in detail.


Q. Witness, how did Reich Chancellor von Schleicher react to this political situation?

A. After his efforts to split the Party and to bring about a majority in the Reichstag had failed, Reich Chancellor von Schleicher asked the Reich President to give him dictatorial powers, which meant a violation of the Constitution. Thus, he wanted the very thing which I had proposed to the Reich President on the 1st of December, 1932, as the only way out of the situation, a proposal which the Reich President had accepted at that time but which General von Schleicher had thwarted.

Q. A discussion took place on the 22nd of January, at the home of von Ribbentrop, at which, besides yourself, Goering, Meissner, and Oskar von Hindenburg were present. Was this discussion arranged on your initiative, or who suggested it?

A. The initiative for this discussion on the 22nd was Hitler's, and he suggested that Herr von Ribbentrop should place his home at our disposal. The Reich President wished to know what Hitler thought about the solution for the political crisis, and what his proposals were. Therefore, the conversation of the 22nd pivoted exclusively on the demands of the National Socialists, while the formation of a government, as it took place on the 30th, was not discussed.

Q. On the 28th of January, at noon, the Reich President instructed you to begin negotiations for the formation of a new government. What possibilities for the formation of a government did you consider the political situation offered?

A. The idea of forming a parliamentary majority government had been abandoned since the 20th of January; it was impossible ... Hitler was not willing to lead or participate in such a government.

Secondly, further support of the Schleicher Presidential Cabinet by means of a declaration of a state of emergency and the prorogation of the Reichstag, which was against the Constitution, had been rejected by the Reich President on the 23rd. He had rejected these proposals, as we know, because von Schleicher had told him in December that a violation of the Constitution would mean civil war and a civil war would mean chaos, "because," he said, "I am not in a position with the army and with the police to maintain law and order."

Thirdly, since Hitler offered to participate in a presidential cabinet this was the only remaining possibility, and all the forces and political parties which had supported my government in 1932 were available for this.

Q. What were the instructions which the Reich President gave you?

A. The instructions given me by von Hindenburg were as follows:

The formation of a government under the leadership of Hitler, with the utmost restriction. of National Socialist influence, and within the framework of the Constitution.

I should like to add that it was quite unusual for the Reich President to ask any person to form a government which would not be headed by the person himself

[Page 278]

In the normal course of events, Hindenburg should, of course, have entrusted Hitler himself with the formation of a government; but he entrusted me with this task because he wished to minimise Hitler's influence in the government as far as possible.

Q. And with whom did you negotiate?

A. I negotiated with the leaders of the Rightist groups, namely, the NSDAP, the German National People's Party, the "Steel Helmet Party" ("Stahlhelm"), and the German People's Party, which were the most likely to participate in the formation of this government.

Q. On what lines did you suggest the formation of the new cabinet to the Reich President?

A. I suggested the only possibility which existed, namely, a coalition cabinet consisting of these groups.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, the Tribunal thinks that the defendant is going into far too much detail about this, because he has given his account of why the President sent for him and why he had anything to do with it. And that is the only matter which concerns him. After he has given that explanation, it should not be necessary to go into any further detail about it at all.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Mr. President, the prosecution has made the charge that the very act of forming the government was a crime; he is therefore defending himself by stating that he tried to provide for a safeguard against an overwhelming influence of Hitler in the government. It is relevant -

THE PRESIDENT: Yes; but that is what I said. He has given that explanation. He does not need to add all sorts of details to support that explanation.

I have written down, some moments ago, that the President asked him because he wished to minimise the influence of Hitler. Now he is going on with all sorts of details.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Mr. President, he is merely trying to set forth in what way he tried to limit Hitler's influence, and that is a very important point. He is going to tell us what safeguards he provided within this government: the careful selection of members of the government, for example, with the object of preventing Hitler's influence becoming, dominating. This is a very important point in reply to the prosecution's charges.

THE PRESIDENT: The defendant can do it as shortly as possible, and not do it in too great detail. That is all the Tribunal wants.

THE WITNESS: I shall be very brief, my Lord.

The safeguarding measures which I introduced at the request of the Reich President were the following:

1. The including of a very small number of National Socialist ministers in the new cabinet; only three out of eleven, including Hitler.

2. The decisive economic departments of the cabinet to be placed in the hands of non-National Socialists.

3. Experts to be placed in the ministerial posts as far as possible.

4. Joint reports of Reich Chancellor Hitler and Vice-Chancellor von Papen to Hindenburg, to avoid too extensive a personal influence of Hitler on Hindenburg.

5. The attempt to form a parliamentary bloc as a counter-balance against the political effects of the National Socialist Party.


Q. To what extent did Reich President von Hindenburg himself select the members of the new cabinet?

A. The Reich President reserved the right to appoint the Foreign Minister and the Reichswehr Minister. The first of these two key posts was given to Herr von Neurath, in whom the president had special confidence, and the Reich

[Page 279]

Defence Ministry was given to General von Blomberg, who also enjoyed the particular confidence of the Reich President. The National Socialist members of this cabinet were only the Reich Minister of the Interior, Frick, whose activity as Minister of the Interior of the State of Thuringia had been completely moderate, and the Minister without Portfolio, and later Prussian Minister of the Interior, Goering.

Q. In this connection I should like to refer to Document Book 3, Documents 87 and 93, namely, an affidavit of the former Minister, Dr. Alfred Hugenberg, and an interrogatory of Freiherr von Lersner.

THE PRESIDENT: What page in Book 3 did you say?

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