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-Seventh Day: Tuesday, 18th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page 316]

THE PRESIDENT: We will in a moment, but what I was asking you was why is it necessary to go into the history of the defendant in Ankara in view of what the prosecution have said with reference to their charges against the defendant? As I understand it, the prosecution have said that they make no charges against the defendant in connection with his work at Ankara. Unless the history of that time throws light upon the past, upon the time up to March 1938, it does not appear to be relevant to this trial.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: In discussing his activities in Turkey, I shall confine myself to only a few points, which shed light on the previous activities of the defendant

[Page 317]

von Papen. The evidence will, therefore, refer to the fact that through his activities the defendant made it quite clear that he was a definite opponent of the war, and that in every phase of the war he merely strove for peace. This material relative to the period in Turkey is; therefore, to form evidence rebutting the charge that previously the defendant had been in any way an active participant in the war policy. We must also get a complete picture of a man who is under the indictment of conspiracy. If he was in an official position directly before the outbreak of the war and during the war, then certainly we must investigate whether his attitude during that time does not disprove the statements by the prosecution that, before that time, he was in agreement with the plans which, it is true were, first carried out during his early days in office. The questions are brief.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Under what circumstances were you appointed Ambassador to Ankara in April 1939? Why did you accept this post?

[Franz von Papen] A. I accepted the post, after I had refused it twice, under quite extraordinary circumstances. On the day of Italy's occupation of Albania, Herr von Ribbentrop called me up and urged me to go to Berlin. There, he explained to me that the post in Ankara, which had been vacant for six months, would have to be filled immediately because of the complications which might arise in the South-East from the occupation of Albania. Before I accepted this post I considered carefully whether I could do, and ought to do, anything more for the Hitler government. After the entry into Prague on the 15th of March, we knew that we were sitting on a powder keg. In this European problem there were two possibilities of conflict: one was the Polish problem, with regard to which I could do nothing; the other was the South-East problem, which had become acute through the occupation of Albania. With regard to this, I felt that I could do something useful and contribute to the maintenance of peace in Europe. For that reason I agreed to go to Ankara.

Q. First you went to Ankara to obtain information; you obtained a picture of the situation there, and then, both in oral and written reports, you explained your views. Please comment on this.

A. In Ankara, I immediately obtained a picture of the whole situation because I knew all the leading personalities there.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kubuschok, you are not proposing to take the defendant through all the intricacies of Turkish politics, are you?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: No, that is not my intention. The problem is dealt with in a report which the defendant made in Berlin not only to Hitler but also to other offices. The contents of this report show a positive activity for the maintenance of peace. That is why I have gone into this affair briefly. And, witness, I beg you to outline -

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got the report?

DR. KUBUSCHOK: No, this report is also in the files of the Foreign Office, to which I have no access.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, you had better deal with the subject, but deal with it shortly.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Witness, please continue.

THE WITNESS: I will be very brief, my Lord. I came back from Turkey, and told Hitler in a report what had to be done in order to maintain European peace. I sent this memorandum also to Keitel and Brauchitsch. I stated in this report that it was necessary, for the purpose of keeping the situation in the South-East under control, for Italy immediately to give positive promises, in order to remove any doubt of the sincerity of the Italian policy, that its military forces would be withdrawn from Albania and its relations with Turkey would be adjusted.

[Page 318]

A very heated discussion on this advice followed between Count Ciano and me. Count Ciano was in Berlin on that day to sign the German-Italian Alliance. When I made my suggestions to him, he was most indignant at these demands and complained about me to Herr von Ribbentrop. A very heated discussion then took place with Herr von Ribbentrop who told me that he was in charge of German foreign policy and not I, and that it was after all not my task to make suggestions for keeping the peace. Then I offered my resignation to Herr von Ribbentrop and told him it was useless, under the circumstances, to send me to Ankara; but Herr von Ribbentrop withdrew his statement then and I went back.


Q. In this report, did you warn in general against a war adventure and what reasons did you give for this warning?

A. The memorandum, which I gave also to General Keitel and General Brauchitsch, contained a military presentation of the situation, in which I stated that to begin a war for the Polish Corridor would of necessity lead to a world war, for there was no doubt that England would keep its promise to Poland and that England and France would come to Poland's aid. I also expressed the opinion that if such a world war were to break out, Germany's position would be hopeless.

Q. What was your reaction to the news about the outbreak of war on the 1st of September, 1939?

A. When the news of the outbreak of the Polish war reached me in Ankara, I was shocked. I had, of course, hoped that Hitler would avoid this step which would plunge us into the greatest misfortune.

Q. I refer to Document 14, Page 62, an affidavit of the lady who was for many years private secretary of the witness von Papen. I will quote a brief passage from Page 64, the second paragraph from the end:

"I heard the radio announcement of the outbreak of war in the Embassy at Ankara with the Ambassador and the entire staff. Afterwards I walked across the Embassy's park with the Ambassador. The Ambassador was extraordinarily excited and shaken. I had never seen him like this, not even after the darkest days of 30th June, 1934, and not even after the murder of his friend Ketteler.

That is why I can recall exactly every word which the Ambassador said to me on that occasion: 'Remember my words: To have provoked this war is the greatest crime and the greatest madness which Hitler and his people could have committed. Germany cannot win this war. All will be buried under the ruins'."

Q. Witness, what were your decisions for the future?

A. What could I do? I could have protested and then, in order not to be shot as a traitor in Germany, have remained abroad. I could have emigrated. I would never have done that, for I have always found that one can work better in one's own country than as an emigrant. I could have resigned, then returned to Germany and become a soldier. The best thing, it seemed to me, was to remain where I was, where I could best help my fatherland.

Q. Now I come to discuss your various efforts towards peace. Please describe first your negotiations with the Dutch Ambassador, Dr. Visser.

A. Immediately after the Polish campaign I had negotiations with the Dutch Ambassador in Ankara at that time, Dr. Visser, who declared himself willing to get his Foreign Minister to mediate in London. The condition for a peace would, of course, have been the restoration of Poland, with a corresponding adjustment of the Corridor problem, the problem of the German sections.

I reported this possibility for peace negotiations to Herr von Ribbentrop, but it seemed to me that he was not doing anything in the matter, and therefore in November 1939 I went to Berlin, where I saw Herr von Ribbentrop, who told me: "The Fuehrer does not want to hear anything of peace negotiations; please do not undertake any further steps."

[Page 319]

Nevertheless, I went to Hitler, reported the Dutch offer to him and expressed the wish of the Dutch Ambassador, Dr. Visser, to come to Berlin. Unfortunately, Hitler rejected all my arguments.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I wish to point out that with the approval of the Tribunal an interrogatory on this subject was sent to Ambassador Dr. Visser, but the interrogatory has not yet been returned.


Q. Did you make further suggestions as to ending the war in 1939? I am thinking in this connection of a report on the restoration of legal life in Germany.

A. Yes. In December of 1939 I sent a detailed report for Hitler to Herr von Ribbentrop, and in this report I said that the first condition for any conclusion of peace, and for any readiness abroad to conclude a peace, would be the renunciation of the present governmental methods in Germany; that is, a return to constitutional conditions in Germany. Then I told Hitler: "If you do this, you will have more credit abroad, and it might be possible to prepare the way for peace negotiations."

Q. What was the instruction which you received from Berlin in regard to peace efforts, and what did you do nevertheless?

A. The Reich Foreign Minister repeatedly issued strict orders to the Chiefs of Missions under no circumstances to extend any peace feelers. In the opinion of the Foreign Office, such attempts would be a sign of weakness.

I did not observe this ruling because I was determined, on my own initiative, to do everything to shorten the war. For that reason, in the spring of 1941, before the Balkan crisis, I addressed myself to his Majesty the King of Sweden, with the request to begin a peace mediation. I also asked the President of Turkey, Ismet Inonu, to consider the possibilities of mediating. President Inonu agreed to do so, while his Majesty the King of Sweden refused, saying he did not consider it a suitable moment for such efforts. The Turkish President requested, however, that he should be officially asked to mediate. That, of course, was not done.

Q. What did you think about the events of the 10th of May, 1940, the entry of German troops into Holland and Belgium, and what statement did you make in this connection?

A. On the 10th of May, 1940, I was deeply concerned with the question which had dominated the whole of the first World War, the question of why Germany had violated Belgian neutrality. It was completely incomprehensible to me that this psychological error should be repeated and I expressed this opinion of mine in a letter which I sent to the Dutch Ambassador, Dr. Visser, on the 10th of May.

Q. What did you do in order to check the extension of the war to the Balkans?

A. When the Yugoslav crisis broke out and our troops marched through Bulgaria, I got Hitler to send a personal letter to the Turkish President. In this letter Hitler assured the Turkish President that under no circumstances did he intend to fight Turkey, and for that reason he had ordered German troops to keep a forty kilometres distance from the Turkish border.

Q. In June 1941 you concluded a treaty of friendship with Turkey. Will you state briefly the reasons for that?

A. The reasons were very simple: to limit the war. Turkey was to be assured that, in spite of our alliance with Italy, in spite of the war in the Balkans, in spite of the war with Greece, we would never threaten Turkey; and that we would not attempt to advance through Turkey to the Suez Canal. The negotiations were very long and difficult because Herr von Ribbentrop did not want in this treaty any mention of Turkey's contractual obligations to the Allies. I then pointed out to Herr von Ribbentrop that the Turks were faithful to their treaties.

Q. Did you know of Hitler's intentions against Russia? What did you think about this war?

A. The beginning of the war with Russia was, of course, a complete surprise to us. We had heard of the massing of troops on both sides but, of course, I

[Page 320]

assumed and hoped that Hitler would keep his pact with Russia and that he would not begin this war. I considered the beginning of the war against Russia a crime, from the point of view of German as well as European interests.

Q. Did you, after you returned from a visit to Germany in the autumn of 1943, continue your efforts towards peace?

A. In the autumn of 1943, after Stalingrad, it had become clear that no peace could be established with the Hitler government. Regarding this, there was much discussion between myself and my friends, including my military friends. In the autumn of 1943 I was initiated into the so-called Beck Plan, which has been mentioned here by the witness Gisevius. At that time, the object of this plan was not to eliminate Hitler by assassination, but to surround his headquarters with troops, arrest Hitler and put him on trial. The reasons for this were obvious. Even if many generals were of the opinion that this war had to be stopped, they were afraid of taking action against Hitler because they were of the opinion that Hitler still enjoyed very great prestige. Moreover, there was the further difficulty that if Hitler were removed, no one knew what the Allies would do with us.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks this should be taken more shortly, Dr. Kubuschok.

THE WITNESS: As a result of all these considerations, I attempted to learn what the Allies would do with Germany in such a case, and for this purpose I approached the American Minister at that time, Ambassador Earl, who reported on the matter in the Press.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: I refer to Document 93, Page 214. This is the interrogatory of Freiherr von Lersner, whom I wanted to call as a witness, but who could not come here because of transportation difficulties. On Page 214, the answer to question 7 is:

"My activities for the mediation of peace negotiations were always based on my own initiative and extended to the attempt to mediate general world peace between all belligerent States Prior to all steps towards peace, I engaged in detailed discussions with Ambassador von Papen and was always warmly supported by him to the utmost, although taking part in any peace negotiations was just as perilous for him as for me.

He also introduced me to a number of foreigners, including the Apostolic Delegate to Istanbul, Archbishop Roncalli.

When in 1942 I resolved to go to the Vatican, not only did Ambassador von Papen urgently advise me to make the trip, but he also personally procured for me all the necessary papers and passports for Rome, where, in spite of the special, express prohibition of the Reich Government, I suggested to Cardinal Maglione and the diplomatic director of the Curia, Bishop Montini, a world-peace drive by Pope Pius XII with all belligerent powers.

When in April 1944 I had the opportunity to establish contact with, George Earl, the former American Ambassador to Vienna and Sofia, the friend of President Roosevelt, with whom I had long been personally acquainted, Papen again helped me in every way. He even took it upon himself - "

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): These are details. Is it not sufficient to say that the defendant said that he endeavoured in every way to make peace? Then you can refer, if you like, to any interrogatories or affidavits which confirm what the defendant says.

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