Franz Von Papen
A. POSITIONS HELD BY VON PAPEN.
(1) Awarded the Golden Party Badge by Hitler, thereby becoming member of NSDAP (2902-PS; Das Archiv vol. 48, p. 1614).
(2) Member of Reichstag, 1933-1945 (2902-PS).
(3) Reich Chancellor, 1 June 1942 to 2 December 1942, acting pro-tem between 17 November and 2 December (2902-PS).
(4) Vice Chancellor, 30 January 1933 to August 1934 ( ?) Papen admits holding office only to 30 June 1934; he also admits that decrees published on 1 August 1934 and 2 August 1934 carry his signature as Vice-Chancellor, but claims this was either mistake or forgery) (2902-PS).
(5) Special Plenipotentiary for the Saar (13 November 1933 to 30 June 1934) (2902-PS).
(6) Negotiator of Concordat with Vatican (concluded 20 July 1933) (2655-PS).
(7) German Ambassador at Vienna (26 July 1934 to 4 February 1938), continuing thereafter to arrange Berchtesgaden meeting between Hitler and Schuschnigg and to participate in meeting itself (2902-PS).
B. AS EX-REICH CHANCELLOR AND PROMINENT POLITICAL LEADER, VON PAPEN USED HIS PERSONAL INFLUENCE TO PROMOTE THE ACCESSION OF THE NAZIS TO POWER.
(1) When von Papen began these efforts he was well aware of the Nazi program and Nazi methods. The official NSDAP program was open and notorious. For many years it had been published and republished in the Yearbook of the NSDAP and elsewhere. The Nazis made no secret of their intention to make it the fundamental law of the State. The first three points of this program forecast a foreign policy predicated upon the absorption of "Germanic" populations outside the boundaries of the Reich, the abrogation of Versailles treaty limitations, and the acquisition of "Lebensraum." Points 4 to 8 foretold the ruthless elimination of the Jews, and the 25th point demanded "unlimited authority" of the central regime over the entire Reich as a means "for the execution of all this" (1708-PS).
Hitler and the other leaders of the Party repeatedly reiterated these views before 1933. Hitler himself subsequently pointed out that there was no excuse for misinterpreting Nazi intentions:
Hitler and other Nazi leaders repeatedly made clear their willingness to use force if necessary to achieve their purposes. They glorified war. Mein Kampf is replete with early evidence of such intentions, which subsequently were reaffirmed from time to time in the years preceding 1933 (D- 660; 2771-PS; 2512-PS).
The Nazi leaders prior to 1933 had openly declared their intentions to subvert democratic processes as a means to achieve their purposes, and to this end to harass and embarrass democratic forces at every turn. Thus Hitler himself had declared that.
Frick, writing in the National Socialist Yearbook, declared:
The practical application of these purposes was thus subsequently described by a leading Nazi constitutional authority, Ernst Rudolf Huber:
This practical application of Nazi purposes and methods was manifest at the time von Papen was a member of the Reichstag and Vice Chancellor. By this time the Nazi members of the Reichstag were engaging in tactics of disturbance which finally culminated in physical attacks upon members of the Reichstag and upon visitors, and were using terroristic measures to assure their election (L-83).
Von Papen not only had the opportunity to observe early manifestations of Nazi violence and irresponsibility. He fully understood the true character of the Nazi menace before 1933 and publicly condemned it.
At the time of the German elections in the summer of 1932, von Papen, President Hindenburg, and certain other German leaders were hoping that the rising Nazi menace would be dissipated by providing for National Socialist participation in a rightist-centrist government. Hitler refused all overtures inviting such participation, even when suggested by President Hindenburg himself, insisting upon assuming the chancellorship without obligation to other parties. Hitler's refusal at this time to collaborate with Hindenburg and Papen marked the beginning of a series of public declarations in which von Papen revealed a clear understanding of Nazi methods and objections. Thus, on the occasion of his Munster speech of 28 August 1932 von Papen declared:
Writing in the September 1932 issue of the periodical "Volk und Reich," von Papen declared:
In his Munich speech on 13 October 1932 von Papen was especially clear:
In a series of interviews and speeches in the fall of 1932 von Papen castigated the Nazi party for its ambitions to achieve a total and centralized control of Germany. He contrasted its objectives and methods to his own "conservatism" and emphasized its incompatibility with the preservation of the "federalistic" type of government to which he was committed. His public pronouncements in this connection were clearly reflected in the contemporary press:
The Vice Chancellor's campaign against the Nazis culminated finally in a radio speech to the German public on 4 November 1932, in which he severely criticized Nazi political methods. He damned the Nazis' "pure party egoism" which resulted in methods described by him as "sabotage" and as "a crime against the nation." He accused the Nazis of wanting complete and permanent power in Germany (Deutsche Reichsgeshichte in Dokumenten IV, p. 523 (Rundfunkrede des Reichkanzlers von Papen)).
Nor was von Papen content merely to make speeches against the Nazis. As late as November 1932, Papen was prepared to use all the forces at the command of the state in a supreme effort to suppress the rising Nazi menace. He was deterred from this purpose only by a failure to secure the support of his cabinet. The inner struggles of the German cabinet at this time are recounted by Otto Meissner (in a statement made at Nurnberg, 28 November 1945), Chief of the Chancery of Reichspresident Hindenburg.
(2) Despite his appreciation of the Nazi menace, von Papen rigorously proceeded to conduct negotiations which resulted in placing Hitler and the Nazi regime in power. Following his resignation as Chancellor on 17 November 1932 von Papen continued as Chancellor pro-tem until 2 December 1932, when General Schleicher was appointed to replace him (2902-PS).
Almost as soon as he vacated the Chancery, von Papen began plotting to unseat his arch-rival Schleicher. On about 10 December 1932 -- less than a month after he was willing to use force to suppress the Nazis -- von Papen requested Kurt von Schroeder, the Cologne banker, to arrange a meeting between Hitler and von Papen (according to the statement of Schroeder, made at Nurnberg, 5 December 1945). Schroeder was one of a group of rightist industrial and financial leaders who had previously been organized by Hitler's man, Wilhelm Keppler, to provide means of bolstering Nazi economic power.
Hitler himself at this time understood von Papen. He knew that Papen's ideas were not too different from his own to preclude agreement. He knew that Papen's personal rivalry with Schleicher would make Papen amenable to some agreement whereby Schleicher might be unhorsed and Papen restored to a position of public prominence. He accordingly asked Keppler to arrange for a meeting with Papen (reported in an affidavit of Wilhelm Keppler, executed at Nurnberg, 26 November 1945).
The result of these maneuvers was the now-famous meeting between Hitler and Papen at banker Schroeder's Cologne home in January 1933. It was at this meeting that Hitler and Papen reached an understanding, subject only to the ironing out of minor details. It was at this meeting that Papen completely committed himself to go along with Nazi policy.
The events of this day have been described by Kurt von Schroeder (in a statement referred to above):
Having reached an understanding with Hitler, von Papen directed his energy toward convincing President Hindenburg to allow Hitler to form a new government. In this task he had to overcome Hindenburg's fears that this appointment would lead to domestic oppressions and risk of war (according to a statement of Otto Meissner, Nurnberg, 28 November 1945).
Von Papen himself subsequently admitted the important role he played in bringing Hitler to power. At Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938, immediately after Hitler had forced Schuschnigg to sign the document which led to the Austrian Anschluss, Hitler turned to Papen and remarked:
Papen replied: "Ja, wohl, Mein Fuehrer." (2995-PS)
C. AS VICE-CHANCELLOR, VON PAPEN USED HIS POSITION AND PERSONAL INFLUENCE TO FACILITATE THE CONSOLIDATION OF NAZI CONTROL OVER GERMANY.
(1) In the first critical year and a half of Nazi consolidation of control over Germany, von Papen was second only to Hitler in the Cabinet which established the legal basis for furtherance of the Nazi program. As Vice- Chancellor, van Papen was the only member of the government empowered to act for the Fuehrer in his absence.
(2) Von Papen actively participated in the general abolition of civil liberties by promoting legislation which paved the way for the Nazi police state. At the first meeting of Hitler's Cabinet, there was intensive discussion concerning the possibility of securing passage of an Enabling Law which in practical effect would liquidate the Reichstag and make the Nazi Cabinet the supreme law-making power of the Reich. The conspirators, including von Papen, at this meeting clearly indicated that they did not at the time hold sufficient power to achieve this measure by normal constitutional methods (351-PS).
Seizing the Reichstag fire as a pretext, the Cabinet forthwith arranged for the suspension of those fundamental civil liberties (including freedom of speech, press, assembly and association) which would protect citizens who dared to oppose the plans of the conspirators. The suspension of civil liberties was accomplished by issuance of a Presidential decree, which presumably, according to German usage, was proposed to the Reich President by the Cabinet and-countersigned by those Ministers whose departments were involved (1390-PS;
This basic law was only the first of a series which placed the individual dissenter at the mercy of the Nazi state. As if to underscore explicitly the basic policy behind this legislation, von Papen personally signed the decree which implemented this legislation by creating Special Courts to enforce its provisions. This decree abolished rights, including the right of appeal, which had previously characterized the administration of justice by the German judicial system. It thus constituted also the first legislative measure for the Nazification of the German judiciary (2076-PS).
The subsequent creation of the dreaded Volksgericht and the wholesale Nazification of the German system of criminal law was merely the logical development of these earlier steps. This too was achieved by decree of the Cabinet in which von Papen was Vice-Chancellor
(3) Von Papen actively participated in substitution of the Nazi Cabinet for the Reichstag as Germany's supreme law- giving authority, notwithstanding his doubts as to the advisability of giving Hitler such extensive power. Von Papen actively participated in the Cabinet deliberations concerning the proposed so-called Enabling Act, and concerning the means by which it might be made law (351-PS; 2962-PS; 2963-PS).
The enactment of this law deprived the Reichstag of its legislative functions, so that legislative as well as executive powers were concentrated in Hitler and his Cabinet (2001-PS). Enactment of the law was made possible only by the application of Nazi pressure and terror against the potential opponents of this legislation, and by taking advantage of the Presidential decree of 28 February 1933, suspending constitutional guarantees of freedom. (See section 2 of Chapter VII on the Acquisition of Totalitarian Political Control.)
As if to indorse the methods by which this legislation was enacted, von Papen personally signed the Amnesty Decree of 21 March 1933, liberating all persons who had committed murder between 30 January 1933 and 21 March 1933 against anti-Nazi politicians, writers, and Reichstag Deputies (2059-PS).
Von Papen participated in this program notwithstanding the fact that he foresaw at that time the implications of granting to Hitler the complete powers conferred by the Enabling Act. He has so testified (in an interrogation at Nurnberg, 3 September 1945):
(4) Von Papen not only participated in the seizure by the cabinet of supreme power for the Nazis, but as a member of the cabinet participated in the systematic elimination of all potential enemies of the Nazi conspiracy. The Reichstag fire and the ensuing suppression of civil liberties marked the beginning of the destruction of all rival political parties. The immediate elimination of the legally elected Communist members from the Reichstag was merely the forerunner of the rapid and complete liquidation of all political parties other than the National Socialists (2403- PS; 1396-PS; 2058-PS; 1388-PS). By these measures the suppression of all democratic opposition became complete, within one year of the time when von Papen was warning his countrymen of the dangers of authoritarianism.
Having substituted the autocracy of the Hitler cabinet for the democratic force of the Reichstag, the cabinet proceeded immediately to enact a series of laws abolishing the states and coordinating them with the Reich (2004-PS; 2005-PS; 2006- PS). The enactment of these laws, which had been clearly indicated by point 25 of the Party program, removed all possible retarding influences which the German federal State might have exerted against the overwhelming centralization of power in Hitler' Reich Cabinet.
The importance of this step, as well as the role played by Papen, is reflected in an exchange of letters between Reichs President Hindenburg, von Papen in his capacity as Reichskommissar for Prussia, and Reichs Minister Goering. The exchange occurred in connection with the recall of the Reichskommissar and the appointment of Goering to the post of Minister President of Prussia. In tendering his resignation, on 7 April 1933, von Papen wrote to Hitler:
In transmitting this resignation request to President Hindenburg, Hitler stated:
The enactment of this legislation followed repeated declarations in which Papen had warned his countrymen of the dangers of the exaggerated degree of centralized authority which would result from abolition of the federal system. These warnings began before Hitler's accession to power and continued by implication in the reassurances which Papen gave in February 1933 to Bavarian political leaders who expressed their fears of Nazi centralized authority (Cuno Horkenbach, Das Deutsche Reich von 1918 bis Heute. (The German Reich from 1918 until today) (Berlin 1933), p. 44). As late as 3 March 1933, in an election speech at Stuttgart, von Papen warned that:
Less than one month after its seizure of the legislative power, the cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted the first of a series of laws aimed at establishing firm Nazi control over the entire civil service and judiciary (2012-PS; 1400-PS; 1398-PS). Having been a public servant himself, von Papen was aware of the far-reaching effect of these first legislative and administrative steps in attaining full totalitarian control over the entire governmental machinery of Germany.
The cabinet of which von Papen was a member embarked upon a state policy of persecution of the Jews. The first organized act in this program was the boycott of Jewish enterprises on 1 April 1933, which was approved by the entire cabinet. This was followed by a series of laws beginning the systematic elimination of the- Jews from public and professional life in Germany. (See Section 7 of Chapter VII on the Program for Persecution of Jews.)
All these suppressive measures were in line with long- standing basic objectives of the NSDAP to which von Papen had agreed in hisJanuary conference with Hitler and von Schroeder.
(5) To complete its suppression of all rival influences, the Cabinet of which von Papen was a member enacted a series of decrees which strengthened the Nazi movement by conferring upon it a para-governmental status. Followers of the Party, through a decree signed personally by von Papen, were granted amnesty "for penal acts committed in the material revolution of the German People, in its preparation of the fight for the German soil" (2059-PS). The perpetrators of Nazi terrorism were thereby placed above the law, and a pattern was established for the subsequent handling of Nazi excesses.
This cabinet enacted measures which gave legal protection to the status and symbols of the Party and its formations (1652- PS;
This cabinet enacted a series of measures to assure the Nazi movement's spiritual control over Germany (2029-PS; 2030-PS; 2415-PS; 2083-PS; 2078-PS; 2088-PS).
Having first outlawed all political parties other than the NSDAP, the cabinet of which von Papen was-a member formally decreed that:
Having granted para-governmental status to the Nazi party, and having assured legal unity of the Party's Fuehrer and the Reich's Chancellor, the Nazis next step was to combine in the same person the Presidency of the German Reich. This was accomplished by merging the offices of President and Chancellor, by means of a decree signed by von Papen (2003- PS). An important consequence of this law was to give to Hitler the supreme command of the German armed forces, always a perquisite of the Presidency (2050-PS).
(6) Despite disagreements as to detail, von Papen fundamentally agreed with basic Nazi objectives and publicly endorsed the regime for which he shared responsibility as Vice Chancellor. Von Papen's basic political philosophy was not so divergent from Nazism as to preclude an easy bridging of the gap. In 1932, while still Chancellor, von Papen had been willing to head a government in which Nazism would be strongly represented. By January 1933 he found it possible - - as a price for his restoration to a position of public prominence -- to submerge his differences with Hitler and to direct his energies to the installation of a Nazi regime (see B above).
In addition to his participation as a cabinet member in the process of Nazifying Germany, von Papen's devotion to the Nazi cause was repeatedly demonstrated throughout this period by public statements and acts both by himself and by Hitler. Thus, as noted above in connection with his role in the elimination of the Laender as a political force, von Papen wrote Hitler in April 1933, that
And Hitler on that occasion took notice of Papen's services by declaring that
And again on 2 November 1933, speaking from the same platform with Hitler and Gauleiter Terboven, in the course of the campaign for Reichstag election and the referendum on Germany's withdrawal from the League of Nations, von Papen declared:
By this time as noted above, the cabinet of which Papen was a member had abolished the civil liberties which were a condition to any effective protest against Nazism, had sanctioned political murder committed in aid of Nazism's seizure of power, had substituted itself for the Reichstag as Germany's supreme law-making authority, had destroyed all rival political parties, had enacted the basic laws for abolition of the political influence of the Laender, had provided the legislative basis for purging the civil service and judiciary of anti-Nazi elements, had embarked upon a state policy of persecution of the Jews, had legislated Nazi influence into the cultural life of the German nation, and had taken its first steps toward conferring a para- governmental status upon the Nazi party and its principal formations.
Even after von Papen's Marburg speech of June 1934, in which he again showed some understanding of the dangers of Nazism, he remained a pillar of Nazi policy and influence. Thus Hitler himself, in attempting to justify the Blood Purge of 30 June 1934, tacitly admitted that Papen was still considered a loyal member of the regime:
The Fuehrer thus made-a tacit bid for the continuing loyalty of von Papen. Von Papen's subsequent career demonstrated that this was not a vain expectation. He left the vice- chancellorship only to assume the new task of special emissary of the Fuehrer to Austria. But before leaving, while still Vice Chancellor, von Papen signed the decree combining the positions of President and Reichs Chancellor on 1 August 1934, and on 5 August 1934 he delivered the document -- the so-called Hindenburg Testament which purported to confer the revered president's dying blessing upon Hitler and the Nazi regime (Notice concerning delivery of Hindenburg's testament by Vice Chancellor von Papen, Das Archiv, Vol. V, page 648).
D. AS GERMANY'S MOST FAMOUS CATHOLIC LAYMAN AND AS NEGOTIATOR OF THE VATICAN CONCORDAT, VON PAPEN USED HIS POSITION AND PERSONAL INFLUENCE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONSOLIDATION OF NAZI CONTROL OVER GERMANY AND IN NAZI PREPARATION FOR AGGRESSION.
(1) Immediately upon Nazi seizure of power within Germany, von Papen endeavored to weld German Catholicism into a powerful body of support for the Nazi state. When Naziism seized control of Germany in January 1933, its relations with the church were at a low ebb. The period of the Reichstag elections of July and November 1932 was marred by certain widely circulated anti-Nazi pronouncements of the German bishops, especially in such Catholic papers as Germania, Koelnische Volkszeitung, and the Rhein-Mainische Volkszeitung. These bishops discerned the fundamental incompatibility between the Church and the Nazis' own declarations of State policy. They accordingly publicly stigmatized the Nazi movement as anti-Christian, forbade the Catholic clergy to participate in any ceremonies (such as funerals) in which the Nazi Party was officially represented, refused the sacraments to Party officials, and in several pastorals expressly warned - the faithful against the danger to German Catholicism created by the Party
Immediately upon seizure of power, the main concern of the new regime was to liquidate political opposition. Achievement of this objective was predicated upon the strategy of "divide and rule" A first step in this strategy was to convince conservatives that the efforts of the government were being directed primarily against the Communists and other forces of the extreme Left, and that their own interests would remain safe in Nazi hands as long as they would consent to refrain from political activity. The result was a brief but active period of rapprochement between Church and Party. Von Papen was a leader in this strategy. The minutes of the Reich cabinet meeting of 15 March 1933 contain the following notation in connection with discussions on the Enabling Act:
Eight days later, speaking at the second meeting of the Reichstag of 1933, on 23 March 1933, Hitler asked for adoption of the Enabling Act. In this speech he declared:
The immediate effect of this assurance was action by the conference of German bishop, meeting in Fulda on 28 March 1933. This conference lifted restrictions imposed on members of the church adhering to the Nazi movement. In a cautious statement which placed full faith and credit in the Papen- inspired Hitler assurances, the bishops declared:
This action opened the door for mass Party adherence by practicing Catholics. All those German Catholics who were inclined to adopt Nazi political views and had hesitated only because of the anti-Nazi attitude of the hierarchy hastened now to join the victorious party of the "National Revolution" This tendency was marked by a tremendous and sudden burst of activity by the so-called "bridge-builders," who rushed to close the gap between the Church and the Nazi State. Von Papen, who only a short time before had been willing to use armed force to suppress the Nazis, was foremost among these "bridge-builders" who not only claimed an ideological affinity between the Nazi system and the alleged anti-liberal character of Catholic politics, but affirmatively apologized for excesses of the State which even then had begun to shock the world.
Existing agencies were used for this purpose. Thus, the Union of Catholic Germans (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Deutscher), of which von Papen was president, insisted in its program that the church, like the Nazi movement itself, was guided by the leadership principle (Cuno Horkenbach, Das Deutsche Reich von 1918 bis Heute (The German Reich from 1918 Until Today) (Berlin 1935), pp. 436, 504). The same organization, in the course of the election campaign which preceded adoption of the Enabling Act, had bitterly criticized the Catholic political opposition to Marxism and urged that Catholics "by all means vote unanimously the National Socialist ticket" because "We Catholics do not wish to be denied to march in the lead in this election campaign" (Election Appeal, Voelkischer Beobachter, 23 February 1933, p. 2). Later, on the eve of the Nazis' first anti-Jewish boycott, this same organization played its part in the extensive campaign replying to foreign newspaper reports concerning atrocities committed against German Jews. On 1 April 1933 it published through the Prussian News Service, an "Appeal to all Christians" viewing "with great indignation" this "irresponsible campaign against Germany" which "continues in spite of official German declarations and corrections" This "Appeal" characterized the foreign reports as "intentional lies and falsifications" and "a reckless, crafty campaign of destruction conducted by the Jewish world alliance and moneyed powers against the right of self-determination of all peoples and against the entire Christian civilization" It called upon "the Christians of all countries, irrespective of denominations, to form a world-wide front of defense against that Jewish conspiracy disturbing the true peace" ("Appeal to All Christians" Voelkischer Beobachter (People's Observer), 30 March 1933, p. 2).
Notwithstanding the force of these activities, this Nazification by existing agencies was not deemed adequate to the task of organizing Catholic lay support. The result was the creation, in early April 1933, under the sponsorship of von Papen, of a new "Bund" of Catholic Germans called "Cross and Eagle" ("Kreuz und Adler" which made it its task "to contribute enthusiastic devotion to the upbuilding of the future Reich" (Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich (The Third Reich), p. 250).
This whole program of rapprochement between Church and Party manifests the Papen "touch" -- the same quality of handiwork which had manifested itself in Hitler's accession to power and which later was to reappear in Austria: First, gentle hints by Papen a to strategy, followed within eight days by reassurances in Hitler's Reichstag speech. Next, again following merely by days, the formal lifting of the restrictions on Nazi membership by the leaders of the Church of which von Papen was the most famous lay member. Finally, again within a few days, the open campaign by which Papen- sponsored organizations endeavored to align Church and Party. The close timing of these events was not a coincidence.
(2) Having achieved initial successes in consolidating Catholic support within Germany, von Papen undertook international consolidation of Nazi-Church relationships by negotiation of a Concordat with the Vatican. The program of rapprochement and the public declarations bridging the gap between the Church and the Nazi movement were merely advertising media by which Nazi-minded Catholics were herded into the movement, and slogans by which the conspirators might placate the Catholic hierarchy. Throughout this period there continued an undercurrent of anti-Catholic activity. A thorough job was done in purging Reich, state, and municipal administrations of officials appointed for their adherence to the Centre or Bavarian People's parties. Former leaders of those parties, including priests, joined Communists and Social Democrats in the concentration camps, and the campaign of hatred against the "black" was resumed. By April 1933 the bishops were making appeals for clemency toward former civil servants, who, they pointed out, were not able to join the celebration of national awakening because they had been dismissed from positions in which they had given their best to the community of the German people. And on 31 May 1933, a meeting of the Bavarian bishops adopted a solemn statement directed against the tendency of attributing to the State alone the right of educating, organizing, and leading ideologically the German youth (Dismissal of Catholics, Excerpts from Voelkischer Beobachter, February-March 1933; Excerpt, Voelkischer Beobachter, 19 April 1933 (Munich ed.), p. 2).
By this maintenance of a certain amount of pressure against Catholic interests, the hierarchy was reminded of the dangers of not coming to a definite agreement with the Nazi State. The stage was thus set for von Papen's negotiation of a Concordat with the Vatican.
At the time of these activities, the government of which von Papen was Vice Chancellor had already launched its program to mold the state machinery into the Nazi image. The Enabling Act had become law, and the general outlines of the Nazi State were already manifest. Notwithstanding the doubts created in his mind by Hitler's insistence upon the Enabling Act, von Papen undertook negotiations with the Vatican. In fact, he since has claimed that these fears gave rise to the negotiation of the Concordat (Interrogation at Nurnberg,
It is clear, however, that these alleged fears of the Enabling Act were not fears at all. They were merely an understanding of the threat they carried to all persons and instrumentalities antagonistic to the Nazi system. Von Papen understood the significance of these developments. What he actually feared was that the rest of the world would also understand Nazi methods and would erect barriers to the consummation of the plans of the conspirators. The situation plainly called for a neutralizing of these potential barriers to Nazi plans. One method of achieving this result at that time was the negotiation of solemn agreements whereby other powers would commit themselves to a policy of non-intervention by either armed or moral force.
When von Papen concluded the Concordat with the Vatican, the political objectives of furthering the purposes of the Nazi conspiracy were thus foremost in his mind. Even at that time, in the first half of 1933, von Papen had in mind, in concluding this Concordat, not only the consolidation of Catholicism behind the Nazi regime within Germany, but also the psychological build-up of the Austrians in preparation for Anschluss. Von Papen's own words eloquently characterize these manoeuvres (monograph entitled "Austria" written at Nurnberg,
On 20 July 1933 the Reich Concordat with the Vatican was signed by von Papen as representative of the Nazi Government of Germany. This instrument was an international treaty which purported to give the church an official guarantee of all the church rights it had sought. In addition it purported to confer freedom for Catholic organizations, maintenance of parochial schools, and preservation of the general influence of the church on the education of the German Catholic youth. Among the 33 articles of the Concordat, 21 treated exclusively the rights and prerogatives accorded to the church. Reciprocation consisted only in a pledge of loyalty by the clergy to the Reich Government and a promise that Catholic religious instruction would emphasize the patriotic duties of the Christian citizen and insist on a loyal attitude toward the Fatherland. Since it had always been the practice of the Catholic church to abide by established governments and to promote patriotic convictions among the faithful, these stipulations of the Concordat were no more than legalizations of an existing custom. They were no more than a guarantee of goodwill betokening harmonious Church-State relations (2655-PS).
(3) The signing of the Concordat was only an interlude in the church policy of the Nazi Conspirators, which was a policy of reassurances and repression. The signing of the Concordat merely marked the beginning of evasions and violations of both its spirit and letter. The ink was hardly dry before it became necessary for the Vatican to complain about a false interpretation of the text, made by the Nazi government in it own favour. (See Section 6 of Chapter VII on Suppression of the Christian Churches.)
By action taken only ten days after the signing of the Concordat, and despite its provision for the continuance of the Catholic Youth Association, simultaneous membership in the Hitler Jugend and the Catholic Youth Association was forbidden, and the campaign to smash the latter organization thereby commenced (2456-PS).
These first steps were merely a foretaste of a long series of violations which were to commence almost immediately and eventually to result in papal denunciation and serious excesses committed against the clergy (3280-PS).
The continuing character of the conspirators' church policy -- and of von Papen's participation in it -- is further revealed by von Papen's action of 19 September 1934, when, as president of the Union of Catholic Germans (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Deutscher), he ordered dissolution of this organization. By this time the Nazis were dropping all pretext that rival organizations might be permitted to exist, and were well along in their plans for the integration of all German institutions into the Nazi system. The official published announcement of dissolution is a revealing document:
E. AS ENVOY AT VIENNA, VON PAPEN USED HIS POSITION AND INFLUENCE DELIBERATELY TO WEAKEN THE AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT, AND PARTICIPATED IN THE POLITICAL PLANNING AND PREPARATION FOR MILITARY AGGRESSION, AGAINST AUSTRIA.
(1) Von Papen accepted appointment a envoy at Vienna knowing he would "front" for a Nazi fifth column in Austria. In July 1934, the Austrian policy of the Nazi government of Germany was in bad odor throughout the civilized world. The historical record of this period was written in the newspaper headlines of the day. A period of Nazi pressure and terror culminated on 25 July 1934 in an attempted revolutionary putsch, the murder of the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss, in which the German Minister, Reith, was implicated. (See Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.) The situation was such as to call for removal of the German Minister, Reith, and for the prompt substitution of a man who was an enthusiast for Anschluss with Germany, who could be tolerant of Nazi objectives and methods, but who could lend an aura of respectability to official German representation in Vienna. Hitler's reaction was immediate. He chose von Papen as quickly as he heard the news of the Dollfuss murder. Writing of this event in 1945 after his arrest by Allied authorities, von Papen dramatically describes the Fuehrer's response to the situation (monograph on "Austria" referred to above):
As a result of this telephone call, von Papen flew immediately to join Hitler at Bayreuth. There it was clear that the Nazi leadership feared international repercussions from their Austrian policy and felt themselves in dire need of a respectable "front" man. Von Papen has described this meeting:
At this meeting it was Papen himself who drafted the letter of appointment. This letter was a masterpiece of deceit, calculated to conceal completely Hitler and Papen's goal of annexation. It stated:
The actual mission of von Papen was stated more frankly, shortly after his arrival in Vienna, in the course of a private conversation with the American Minister, George S. Messersmith. Mr. Messersmith has described this meeting:
(2) Von Papen proceeded forthwith to accomplish his mission -- the maintenance of an outward appearance of non- intervention while keeping appropriate contacts useful in the eventual overthrow of the Austrian Government. Throughout the earlier period of his mission to Austria, von Papen's activity was characterized by the assiduous avoidance of any appearance of intervention. His true mission was reaffirmed with clarity, several months after its commencement, when he was instructed by Berlin that "during the next two years nothing can be undertaken which will give Germany external political difficulties" Every "appearance" of German interference in Austrian affairs "must be avoided" (1760-PS). As von Papen himself stated to Berger-Waldenegg, the Austrian Foreign Minister:
Throughout this period, the Nazi movement was gaining strength in Austria without openly-admitted German intervention, and Germany needed more time to consolidate its diplomatic position. These reasons for German policy were frankly expressed by the German Foreign Minister von Neurath in conversation with the American Ambassador to France
Von Papen accordingly restricted his public activity to the normal ambassadorial function of cultivating all respectable elements in Austria and ingratiating himself in these circle particularly if they were well-disposed (but not too obviously) to notions of Pan-Germanism. In these efforts he was particularly careful to exploit his background as a former professional officer and a Catholic (1760-PS).
Meanwhile, however, the Austrian Nazis continued illegal organization in anticipation of he possibility of securing their objectives by force if necessary. In these efforts they were aided by Germany, which permitted the outlawed Austrian Nazis to meet and perfect their plots within Germany and with German Nazi assistance; which harbored the Austrian Legion; which made funds-available to National Socialists in Austria; and which established appropriate contact with them through the Reich Propaganda Ministry and through "respectable" Austrian "front" personalities (1760-PS; 812- PS). (See also Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.)
Von Papen was fully aware of the existence and activities of these groups, and of their potentialities in effecting an Anschluss. Thus, in a report to Hitler dated 27 July 1935, entitled "Reflections on the Anniversary of Dollfuss' Death" he reviewed the activities of these illegal groups and concluded that National Socialism could "certainly become the rallying point of all racially German units beyond the borders" In this report he declared:
These sentiments concerning the role of National Socialism were something more than idle speculation. Von Papen knew that the presence of the Austrian Legion in Germany in itself produced incidents, and that the Austrian Nazi movement was dependent on German support. He has so testified (at an interrogation in Nurnberg, 13 October 1945). In fact, despite his facade of strict non- intervention, he remained in contact with subversive and potentially subversive elements within Austria. Thus, in a report to Hitler dated 17 May 1935 he advised concerning the Austrian Nazi strategy as proposed by Captain Leopold, leader of the illegal Austrian Nazis (2247-PS). In subsequent statements he has revealed his modus operandi in the use of his embassy staff. This method provided him with an opportunity to disclaim responsibility if these activities should be questioned. Thus, his military attache, Mutz, "maintained good relations with the Army circles which were inclined towards National Socialism" Von Papen's all- around contact man with the Austrian Nazis was a member of his staff, Baron von Kettler, who "had always maintained intimate contact with a group of young Austrian National Socialists who, as we both agreed, had a conservative coating and fought for a healthy development within the Party" The practical effect of these contacts has been clarified in questioning of von Papen (at Nurnberg, 8 October 1945):
(3) Conclusion of the Agreement of 11 July 1936 merely constituted another step towards Anschluss. Prior to 1936, sponsorship of political subversion was not the only pressure applied by Germany in its efforts to gain control of Austria. The German Government in addition had placed certain economic barriers against trade between German and Austrian subjects, the most serious of which was the 1000 mark law, which crippled the Austrian tourist traffic by levying a 1000 RM tax on any German citizen crossing the border into Austria. The effect of these pressures was to induce the Austrian Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, to seek from Hitler an agreement to "lift the 1000 Mark barrier he had levied against Austria and reassure Austria that he had no political designs concerning our state, Austria"
The result was the agreement of 11 July 1936 between Germany and Austria, which was negotiated by von Papen as Hitler's representative. The published form of this agreement provided:
More interesting was the secret part of this agreement, the most important provisions of which have been summarized by Mr. Messersmith:
Especially interesting was the manner in which this agreement contained German economic concessions and further solemn assurances regarding Austrian independence and integrity, on the one hand, alongside far-reaching political concessions to the Nazi movement (2994-PS). The effect was to place Austria completely at the mercy of German good faith. Von Papen has correctly described it (in an interrogation at Nurnberg, 8 October 1945) as "the first step" toward preparation for Anschluss, notwithstanding his clear understanding at the time that the Austrian government desired and intended to retain its independence.
The Germans lost no time in making the most of their new opportunities, solemn assurances notwithstanding, The agreement merely heralded a new era in "legitimizing" the German fifth column in Austria. Thus, the immediate amnesty to political prisoners in itself presented serious police problems. The freedom granted to political demonstrations and organization by German Nazis made it difficult to police the propagandizing of Austrians. And the agreement specifically gave the German Nazis an opening wedge to representation in the Austrian government. The terroristic activities and pressure of the illegal Nazis continued without interruption under German sponsorship, until their hand was strengthened to the point of openly asking for official recognition (812-PS; 1760-PS; 2994-PS).
The importance of this agreement to the Germans was underscored by the promotion of its negotiator from Gesandter to Botschafter, at the time of its signing (Announcement, Das Archiv, XXVIII, p. 571).
Von Papen himself participated in this pressure game by maintaining contact with the illegal Nazis, by trying to influence appointments to strategic cabinet positions, and by attempting to secure official recognition of Nazi "front" organizations. Reporting to Hitler shortly after conclusion of the 11 July 1936 agreement, he succinctly summarized his program for "normalizing" Austro-German relations under the regime of the new agreement:
This activity continued through 1937. In fact, by 14 January 1937 the negotiations with the Austrian Minister of Security and the development of "front" organizations had proceeded so far that "a very intensive crisis has arisen for the illegal party" with respect to its future program. In urging a patient attitude toward these problems, von Papen appeared less concerned with the legitimacy of their position under the 11 July 1936 agreement than with his fear that
On the other hand when an Austrian cabinet minister failed to show sufficient energy to suit von Papen's purpose, he showed no hesitancy, under the terms of his 11 July 1936 agreement, to urge replacement by a more cooperative individual. Thus, von Papen has summarized his efforts to remove the Austrian Minister of the Interior (monograph
By the beginning of 1938, the Nazi hand had been so strengthened in Austria, and the differences and misunderstandings regarding the agreement of 11 July had become so serious and frequent, that Chancellor Schuschnigg found it expedient to accept von Papen's invitation to meet Hitler at Berchtesgaden, notwithstanding serious misgivings on the part of Schuschnigg (2995-PS). Von Papen showed no hesitancy in extending this invitation despite the fact that he knew Hitler's "idea to swallow Austria" despite his knowledge of Schuschnigg's distrust of Hitler, and despite his own doubts concerning the value of Hitler's word. Notwithstanding the situation, he found it possible even to urge Schuschnigg that Hitler was a man upon whom Schuschnigg could rely. And in making these representations, he was fully aware of the extent of German rearmament and of its possible use as a diplomatic pressure device (according to interrogations, Nurnberg, 19 September 1945 and 8 October 1945).
On 11 February 1938, Schuschnigg left for Berchtesgaden to meet Hitler. At this meeting the severest pressure was exerted to extort far-reaching concessions from Austria, including reorganization of the cabinet, appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security and the Interior, and a general amnesty to Nazis convicted of crimes (2995-PS; 2461-PS; 1544-PS; 1780-PS).
It was at this meeting that Papen urged upon Hitler the appointment of Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security and the Interior (according to monograph "Austria."
Thoroughly entrenched in the government, the Nazis were now able to seize upon Schuschnigg's plebiscite as an excuse to seize power, and to call for military intervention by Germany (812-PS; 2996-PS). (See also Section 3 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Austria.)
Thereafter it was only a matter of hours before Austria became a province of the Reich -- by a law signed by von Papen's man, Seyss-Inquart (2307-PS).
Sources: Nizkor. Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XVI, pp.915-948. Photo Harry S. Truman Library, courtesy of the USHMM. Photo Harry S. Truman Library, courtesy of the USHMM.