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both agreed, had a conservative coating and fought for a healthy development within the Party. They were all well-educated men with a good background. The guiding spirit among them seemed to be the young attorney, Dr. SEYSS-INQUART. He was large, his face open and appealing; his leg, shattered in the war, impeded his gait somewhat. His temperament was always moderate; he combined good social manners with a clever, deliberate judgment. He also enjoyed the reputation of a faithful son of his Church who took his duties seriously.
For all these reasons, particularly the last one, I thought SEYSS-INQUART just the man to carry on Liaison to the profit of both parties concerned. My judgment was at the time shared by the federal chancellor in all respects. I have given this detailed character description here, because Dr. SEYSS-INQUART has become my life's deepest disappointment, as I unfortunately must admit today.
When I mentioned SEYSS-INQUART's name to HITLER during the negotiations on the “Berghof”, he started up terrified: “What kind of a man is this? Never heard of him. Is he a National Socialist at all?” I had expected these difficulties and had therefore secured the services of a known Austrian National Socialist, who was able to give the Fuehrer an alibi (sic) of SEYSS-INQUART for my judgment in Party matters was not at all competent for HITLER. HITLER consented after much balking and agreed to this man, who was also acceptable to the SCHUSCHNIGG government. The negotiations lasted through the afternoon until late at night, and passed through several critical moments. I cannot say whether or not HITLER threatened military invasion, and paraded the generals present, as was later reported. He did not do it in my presence. I only remember that I went in to HITLER during critical situations, and set him aright. At 11 o'clock at night everything had finally been covered, and the meeting broke up in general contentment.
[Editor's Note: von Papen desired that the text of this agreement be inserted here as it was not available to him at the time of writing.]
A few days later HITLER had convened the Reichstag and gave it the following enjoyable explanations about the Austrian problem:
[Editor's Note: von Papen desired that excerpts from Hitler's speech to the Reichstag be inserted here as it was not available to him at the time of writing. 1
The federal chancellor, his retinue and I reached Salzburg by car and took the sleeper for Vienna, arriving the next morning.
He voiced his impressions of the "Obersalzburg" day only at the occasion of the farewell visit on 26 February.
Although the exchange of opinions had occasionally been a bit stormy, I had hopes that the meeting had advanced one step further, and that I could now bid Vienna a less worried good-bye.
I took my pair of skis to Kitzbuehl, to profit by the glorious February sun, and was there joined by Count KAEGENECK and KETTELER. The last named gentleman had arrived by car, racked his bones during a difficult ski descent, and then proceeded to Switzerland. His trunk contained the reports to HITLER of my four years of work; he was to store them in Switzerland with a friend.
I returned to Vienna to take leave from so many old and new friends. Almost daily collaboration had made my ties with the foreign minister, Dr. Guido SCHMIDT, cordial and personal; he brought me the Grand Cross of the Austrian Order of Merit. Although the award of such decorations is often a mere matter of protocol, I was really happy to receive this decoration. It permitted the assumption that the Austrian government then had a different opinion from four years ago, and that my good intentions and intense desires were recognized. Of course, I could not know that this would be the last major award made by the Austrian government before its end.
A stream of souvenirs and presents poured in to my family. We were especially pleased by a charming set of chinaware, presented to my wife by a committee led by the much-revered Princess Sophie OETTINGEN and Princess Nora FUGGER. The diplomatic corps bade me good-bye with a big silver cigar box, engraved with the autographs of all the dear colleagues, whose memory I will always gratefully cherish.
Suddenly a sensation burst in the midst of our preparations to leave.
SCHUSCHNIGG had gone to Innsbruck to address a "Heimwehr” meeting. This was Sunday, March ***. He proclaimed a referendum for next Sunday, March ***. A vote of the Austrian people on the question: ***
[Editor's Note: von Papen desired that the text of the question to be submitted at the proposed referendum be inserted here as it was not available to him at the time of writing.)
This was obviously an event of the first import. Not a soul had known of it. The decision must have been made during the last few days, and the preparations for a referendum in such short time must have been made in utmost secrecy. The press
of the world proclaimed it as a sensational event, which put the otherwise dormant Austrian question into the limelight in one quick move. What was the significance of the federal chancellor's sudden decision? Berlin was in an uproar. The consensus was:
the federal chancellor wants to act out a mock-plebiscite with his "Heimwehr” troops, and tell the rest of the world: “Austria wants no Anschluss! Now that the country has publicly expressed its opposition, the government can unfortunately no longer perform the commitments which the federal chancellor entered 12 February on the Obersalzberg".
Opinion said: “The whole thing is a theatrical coup—but no referendum! For it is impossible to prepare an objective, neutral vote in less than eight days. Fair enlightenment and propaganda are made impossible for the opposition—in this case the Germanthinking and German-feeling part of the population—who favored union of the two countries. Under the pressure of the government machine the plebiscite is to be railroaded through. Therefore it will never picture the real situation. It is a foul ruse of the SCHUSCHNIGG government”.
When the conditions are calmly considered, it cannot be denied that there is some justification of this viewpoint; particularly seeing the basic historic significance of the question. It must also be borne in mind that the communications in the Alpine mountains of Austria, where the largest and possibly most valuable part of the population lives, are poor—one more reason to allow a longer period of time prior to a referendum.
HITLER was extremely upset about SCHUSCHNIGG's obvious attempt to circumvent the commitments entered into 12 February. He commissioned me to have the plebiscite cancelled, or, if that was impossible, to have it postponed. Both suggestions were refused. On the contrary, the Austrian press worked itself into more of a frenzy and unambiguously took the part of the chancellor, defending the plebiscite.
I suggested a way out to Berlin. The chancellor was obviously already too far out on a limb to go back; there was therefore no more chance for the plebiscite to be cancelled, for now all federal, state and local authorities and the entire “Heimwehr" organization were working on it full steam ahead. I suggested to Berlin to attempt a change in the text of the referendum. My version of the text read: ***
[Editor's Note: von Papen desired that his recommended revision of the text be inserted here as it was not available to him at the time of writing.]
While I was still negotiating about this, the situation became more serious every day. The government and “Heimwehr" organized meetings in all the big cities. Everywhere the National Socialists are called on the carpet. There are more-than-heated debates. Long pent-up grouches, social discontent, frequently only personal grudges lead to tumultuous events, and the police intervenes. The streets are thrown open—there is murder and manslaughter. The Austrian government recognizes too late that it has staged an adventure whose issue will soon slip from under its control. Aren't the police and army reliable tools in the hands of this government? SCHUSCHNIGG, at any rate, decides to fight. He will hear nothing of a compromise, which I attempt to achieve until the very last. Probably he feels that his personal position will certainly become untenable, if he gives way now. And he is not willing to abdicate. During all these years he has identified himself too strongly and intrinsically with the fight against Nazism to abdicate.
Several strange persons arrive in my embassy Friday by plane: State Secretary KEPPLER with his retinue, including a certain Dr. VEESENMEYER.
KEPPLER is one of the founders of the Party. He came from the business world, of which he was said to know something. (My personal experience has always been that such Party members coming from the business world had usually gone broke in business and were now looking for better luck in politics.) The Party has never given him an office. He was really always only at the head of "commissions”, a sort of expert in all imaginable fields. We have never heard. what he has actually achieved. But it was said that his influence on HIMMLER and HITLER was considerable, right up to the end. The other man was a young upstart, who had said good-bye to his academic studies like so many others, in order to engage in “revolution". Wherever scandal was heard of, Dr. VEESENMEYER appeared on the scene. Herr von RIBBENTROP applied his superb knowledge of human psychology and finally rewarded Herr VEESENMEYER's underground merits with the position of Envoy in Budapest. Poor Hungary! She had to pay a bitter price for it.
As soon as this crew reported to me, I knew what plans Berlin had laid, although no one spoke about it. But Herr KEPPLER repudiated my repeated attempts to save the situation through a compromise in the twelfth hour by remarking that the time for that was past. He obviously had orders to contact the Austrian Party's authorities.
Now I must add a remarkable event I have previously omitted to mention: During the recent weeks I had repeatedly complained to HITLER about the increasingly aggressive attitude of the Austrian National Socialists. Their illegal Gauleiter LEOPOLD used all means to intrigue against myself and my policy. Quite some time ago I had given up calling him to order, and had forbidden him entry to the embassy. Now I asked HITLER to remove LEOPOLD from the scene. He would thereby also show the Austrian government indirectly that he did not approve of the revolutionary policy of the Austrian Party. To remove a Gauleiter, an old Party stalwart who was in HITLER's and the Party's confidence—that was an almost impossible feat for a non-Party man like me. And yet it worked ! To the Party's amazement HITLER removed LEOPOLD from office and installed the incumbent Gauleiter of Corinthia, CLAUSS, who was considered a reasonable and moderate man. I wish to cite this as evidence for the fact that HITLER could be reached by reasonable arguments—a chance which the federal chancellor never exploited.
During the Friday evening hours I received a call from the Reich Chancery, to start there immediately by plane. Being no man for hasty decisions and unnecessary night flights, I postponed the departure till morning.
Saturday, March*** I left Vienna at 6 o'clock in the morning, and arrived at the Reich Chancery at 9 o'clock. There I was to be a witness to dramatic developments.
I met HITLER at the Reich Chancery, where he was never seen at such an early hour. He was surrounded by ministers, GOERING, GOEBBELS, RIBBENTROP, NEURATH, State Secretaries and officers.
"The situation has become unbearable", he barks at me, as I try to suggest ways out. He cites SCHUSCHNIGG's bad will, who had simply put one over on him at Berchtesgaden. "SCHUSCHNIGG betrays the whole German idea! With a forced vote against the Anschluss he merely wants an alibi for his un-German policy to the European powers. He must not succeed, and he will not succeed. He is wrong if he believes that Mussolini or France will save him. Things must not come to this again.”
I reminded him of the principles which he had signed at Bayreuth, and warned him against hasty decisions. But he countered: "Either the plebiscite is called off, or we overthrow the government. We cannot continue like this!"
Continuous telephone connection is kept up with Vienna, regarding the situation—which grew more and more tense there