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 9 of 10)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Franz von Papen]

[Page 341]

Q. Well now, you knew very well that Hitler was worried from the point of view of foreign opinion as to publicity being given to the effect of a break between you and him, did you not?

You knew that the support, after the blood purge, of an ex-chancellor of the German Reich and, as you have told us, a Catholic of old family with a great position amongst the Catholic population-the support of someone of that kind would be of great value to him after this blood purge which had caused foreign opinion to be very disturbed, did you not? You knew that?

A. No, it seems clear from this letter that I constantly asked Herr Hitler to ascertain why action had been taken in this manner against my associates and me. He was to explain this to the world.

[Page 342]

Q. Herr von Papen, if you, as an ex-chancellor of the Reich and, as you said yourself, one of the leading Catholic laymen of Germany, an ex-officer of the Imperial Army, had said at that time "I am not going to be associated with murder, cold-blooded murder as an instrument of policy," you might at some risk to yourself have brought down the whole of this rotten regime, might you not?

A. That is possible, but had I said it publicly, then quite probably I would have disappeared somewhere just as my associates did. And, apart from that, the world knew from my resignation that I did not identify myself with this affair.

Q. Just let us see what you were writing. If you look at Document 717, which will become Exhibit GB 500, that emphasises the importance that Hitler was attaching to your adherence. If you will look at the second paragraph - I will read it; it is quite short. You say:

"I hope you have received my letter of yesterday and that you received it in the spirit in which it was intended.

"Today I ask you, for personal reasons, to excuse me from participating in the session of the Reichstag. Yesterday you were, indeed, of the opinion that my staying away might create the impression that there was disagreement between us. But this impression can surely not arise if in your statements you refer to the case of the vice-chancellery in the way in which you promised me you would.

"During all these days I have behaved with the greatest possible reserve towards the outside world and have shown myself as little as possible, and you will surely understand my not wanting to appear in public again until every shadow has been removed from me.

"I have also asked the Party chairman to excuse my absence."

Who is the Party chairman? Is that the chairman of the Nazi Party?

A. No, I believe the chairman of the Party vas Dr. Frick.

Q. It was the Government Party, was it?

A. Yes. The letter shows that I requested Hitler to give before the Reichstag an account of the actions undertaken against me and my associates.

Q. You wanted a statement saying that you had never swerved from your loyalty towards him; that is what you wanted, was it not?

A. No, I wanted -

Q. Well, if you disagree with that, look at Document 718, which will become Exhibit GB 501, and see what you say the next day:

"Most honoured Chancellor: After your great speech last night to the nation and the world giving the account of the internal developments which led up to 30th June, I feel a desire to shake your hand, as I did on 30th January, 1933, and to thank you for all you have given anew to the German nation by crushing the intended second revolution and by announcing irrevocable and statesmanlike principles.

Painful, tragic circumstances have prevented me for the first time since 30th January from appearing at your side. You yourself excused me and showed understanding for the fact that a vice-chancellor cannot take his seat on the ministerial bench as long as he finds himself subjected to special treatment. (My confiscated files have still not been returned to me, in spite of Goering's and your own orders.)

Your statements clearly show to history that any suspicion of a connection between my person and these treasonable practices was an intentional defamation and calumniation. I thank you for stating this."

Then, after saying that people are still believing it, in the penultimate paragraph you say:
"I should, therefore, be grateful if you could soon find the occasion to point out positively that up to today" - that was 14th July - "I have loyally stood by and fought for you, your leadership, and your work for Germany."

[Page 343]

Now, defendant, do you deny what I put to you a moment ago - that all you wanted was your loyalty to the regime to be made clear to thy world? It was not worrying you at all that von Schleicher and his wife and von Bose and Jung and all these other people had been murdered by the government of the Reich; otherwise, why did you write a letter like that?

A. I wrote this letter, as the letter itself shows, because I was still being accused of having agreed to the attempts on the lives of Goebbels and Goering and of various other conspiracies. That is the reason why it was important to me to have Chancellor Hitler state that I was not involved in any conspiracies against him in connection with the various actions of this revolt. Of course, first of all I deal in this letter with my position and the position of my associates. The restoration of General von Schleicher's honour was the task of the army, and not my task.

Q. Yes, I will come to that when we deal with the army, but at the moment, you see, what I am putting to you is this: That even after you knew that your own friends had been murdered, to say nothing of your old colleagues, you again and again protested your loyalty and emphasized the fact that you had always worked and co-operated with Hitler in all his work. Was that honest? Are the statements contained in these letters honest, or do you say they were just lies in order to protect yourself?

A. No, I wrote thus because the entire action against me, Himmler's attempt to murder me, the fact that I was arrested, were all based on the supposition that I had participated in a conspiracy against Hitler's government. It had therefore to be clarified that, as long as I was a member of this government, I had acted toward it with absolute loyalty. That is the reason why I was asking for this clarification.

Q. Do you remember your learned counsel, on your instructions, putting an interrogatory to Baron von Lersner? It is Number 2(a) on Page 212 of Defence Document Book 3. Question 2(a).

"Did the defendant von Papen continue to hope to change Hitler's policy to his own way of thinking by impregnating it with conservative ideas, until the murders taking place on 30th June, 1934, and Hitler's justification of them had convinced him that his efforts and his hope had been in vain?"
And Baron von Lersner, not unnaturally, answers "Yes" to that question.

THE PRESIDENT: Which question was that?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: 2(a) on Page 212.

THE PRESIDENT: It is not in our copy.



SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am so sorry. It is my fault entirely. It is rather blurred, and I thought it was an "a." I am greatly obliged. I read the question correctly but as 2(a).


Q. Does that correctly express your point of view - "until the murders taking place on 30th June, 1934, and Hitler's justification of them had convinced him" - that is you - that your efforts and your hopes had been in vain? Do you agree with that? It is an interrogatory put by your own learned counsel.

A. Yes, I agree with that.

Q. If that is your view, why did you write these letters expressing this fulsome admiration of Hitler?

A. What I wished to express in the interrogatory or, rather, what I wanted Herr Lersner to be asked was the following: Is it correct -

Q. The answer the witness expects is in his question. It is one of the best examples of a leading question I have ever seen. You say that your interrogatory expresses your view, do you not?

[Page 344]

A. I might say that if I were of this opinion, that with the 30th of June it became apparent that further co-operation with Hitler was no longer possible and that, therefore, the coalition programme which had been agreed upon between us had collapsed -

Q. You say again that you have an unchanged loyalty and admiration and that you have co-operated:

"I remain loyally devoted to you and to your work for our Germany."
If your view is put in that interrogatory, that the foundations of your faith had been shaken, why do you write that you remain loyally devoted to Hitler's work for Germany?

A. I have already told you and the Tribunal I hoped that, in spite of the collapse of the interior situation, Hitler would at least in the field of foreign policy pursue a reasonable course. He was there; we could not remove him. We had to reckon with Hitler and his government. All the members continued to co-operate; I was the only one who resigned. All these letters with which you are trying to prove I am insincere or that I am not truthful, or, as you really put it, that I am a liar or a deceiver, cannot deny to the world the fact that I resigned at that time.

Q. And you took another job within eleven days. Eleven days after the last letter you had taken the job of representing this - well, I will not say a gang of murderers - this government, which had adopted murder as an instrument of policy, as plenipotentiary to Austria, within eleven days of your last letter.

Let us just see whether the murder motif did not come into that. Did you think that Hitler had been behind the July putsch in Austria which had resulted in the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss?

A. I knew that Herr Habicht, who had been appointed by Hitler to lead the Austrian Party, at any rate, had some connection with this affair. That Herr Hitler himself had approved of this act, that was not known to me.

Q. Well, did you think that the German Foreign Office had been behind the July putsch?

A. The German Foreign Office, in my opinion, had nothing at all to do with the July putsch.

Q. Did you think that Dr. Rieth - if I have his name; yes, Rieth, the German Ambassador in Vienna - did you think that he had been behind the putsch?

A. No, I knew only that Dr. Rieth had negotiated with the Austrian Government.

Q. You did not know that Hitler had been behind it. You deny that the German Foreign Office had been behind it. You did not know that Dr. Rieth had been behind it. Just look at Page 96 of Document Book IIA, Pages 79 and 80 of the German book.

Sergeant Major, it is at the foot of Page 79.

This is a report, your report a year later. I am taking it slightly out of time because of a passage where you recapitulate the facts, and if you will look at the paragraph - I think it is the last paragraph on Page 79 in the German text.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, it is just before the last paragraph on Page 96 in the Document Book IIA.


Q. " The hope that the personal conversations between the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor and the Head of the Italian State at Stresa would lead to a settlement of German-Italian differences has been changed into the exact opposite by the threatening attitude taken up by Mussolini because of the assassination of his friend Dollfuss and by the partial mobilization of Italian troops on the Brenner. It became apparent that the attempt to re-establish normal and friendly relations by sending me to Vienna was not immediately possible after what had just happened. Mistrust of the forcible methods of the Austrian NSDAP" - now look at the next words - "influenced - as became more and more apparent from the trials which were held - by leading

[Page 345]

Reich-German persons, was too strong. The impression caused by the terrorist methods and the death of the Federal Chancellor was too lasting in the widest circles."
Now, defendant, tell the Tribunal, who were the leading German personalities to whom you were referring as supporting the putsch in July 1934 and the murder of Dollfuss? Who were they?

A. By no means the former German Ambassador to Vienna, Herr Rieth, but only Herr Habicht and the persons subordinate to him, who, at the time, were running the Austrian Nazi policy under Hitler's orders.

But I might point out that it says in this sentence that mistrust of the methods of force employed by the Austrian Nazis had become more and more apparent from the trials held, and that is something which we discovered a year later and not at the time when I was given the task.

Q. What I want to know is this. My question was: Who were the leading German personalities? You are not going to tell the Tribunal that Habicht, who was a liaison man with the NSDAP in Austria, was a leading Reich-German personality. Who were they? You are not going to say that Austrian Nazis were leading Reich-German personalities. Who were they? Who were the leading Reich-German personalities that you were talking about?

A. The leading personality was, no doubt, Herr Habicht. But this letter was written to tell Hitler: "Here, look what you have done."

Q. Do you seriously want the Tribunal to understand this as a statement on which they will judge your veracity, that by a leading Reich-German personality you mean Herr Habicht, and you have no one else in mind although you use the plural? Is that what you want the Tribunal to understand? I do not know if you remember, defendant just think of it before you answer - but General Glaise-Horstenau could not even remember Habicht's name when he was giving his evidence.

You cannot seriously mean that you meant a liaison agent with the Austrian NSDAP when you referred to prominent Reich-German personalities. Surely you can do better than that.

Think again, and tell the Tribunal whom you had in mind.

A. Mr. Prosecutor, Herr Habicht was not an agent. Herr Habicht had been appointed by Hitler as the leader of the Party in Austria, so I am surely justified in calling him a leading personality. If Herr Hitler himself had knowledge of these matters at that time, then when reading my letter he would know at what I was hinting.

Q. Even if I were to allow you Herr Habicht, which I certainly never would, he is only one man. Who were the others? You referred to Reich-German personalities. Who were the other people who had been behind this putsch and this murder?

A. Quite frankly I have to tell you that, after the twelve or fifteen years which have passed since then, I can no longer remember which people I might have had in mind when I wrote that. At any rate, the purpose of the letter was - and you will appreciate this - to tell Hitler that the methods which had been employed were doing much more damage and were much more incredible than we were aware of at the time.

Q. Well, I will accept it. We will go on from the point that you knew there were some unspecified, prominent Reich-German personalities who had been behind the murder of Dollfuss.

Now, advancing from that, let us consider what you say with regard to Mr. Messersmith. As I understand it, you deny - if I may say so, with some vigour - what Mr. Messersmith says regarding you. Therefore, let us just look at what he says and see how much of it you can seriously suggest is not true.

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