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and in all big cities. Street demonstrations grew in size everywhere. The embassy's Charge d'Affaires, Prince ERBACH, was commissioned again to negotiate with the government, this time in ultimatum fashion. The officers told me that HITLER has ordered positions taken up for a march on Austria, which can begin Saturday morning if necessary. Wehrkreis Bavaria's advanced parties are already at the Austrian border.
I implored HITLER to desist from any military action. I told him that an armed invasion must necessarily bring bloodshed, even if it was to be expected that the Austrian army would offer no or only little resistance. He would thereby sully our people's whole claim for union, justified as it was by history; he would furnish the other countries with an easy pretext for intervention. He will hear nothing of it all; I still hoped that the whole "show" was only that: a show, to exert pressure on Vienna.
The tension increases by the hour. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon a message from Vienna comes at last: SCHUSCHNIGG has resigned, a new government, including National Socialists, was being formed. Of course, the message continues, this means the cancellation of the plebiscite which had been set for Sunday.
I rush in to HITLER and tell him, that now everything will develop peacefully after all, and that, first of all, the military invasion had become superfluous. HITLER agrees. He orders General von BRAUCHITSCH, who happened to be present, to cancel the order to march. What relief! So everything will work out for the better after all.
But only an hour later Vienna reports that the federal president, MIKLAS, was loath to approve the alteration of the government, and that everything has once more been put in doubt.
Immediately HITLER orders the order to march reinstated. I implore GOERING and NEURATH to persuade HITLER to a peaceful solution. But the tenser Vienna becomes, the more exciting the news of riots in Vienna and of the impotence of the police there, the more intransigent is HITLER. He ordered the Charge d'Affaires to go to the federal president with an ultimatum. No result was obtained.
Then Minister SEYSS-INQUART, who was conducting the negotiations about a reformation of the government, reported that SCHUSCHNIGG was resigning, and that a provisional government was being formed. But the crowds had the upper hand in the street; there was not enough police and armed forces to keep the state in order. The provisional government, the message continued, asked for the help of German troops.
Herr von NEURATH immediately recognized the historic-diplomatic import of such a request, and sought to obtain documentary evidence of the provisional government's request.
HITLER beams. Now he has things where he wanted them! Dr. GOEBBELS orders thousands of copies of addresses to the Austrian people printed immediately. Tomorrow airplanes are to drop them.
Nothing but these addresses had kept his peculiar mind busy all afternoon. A dozen times he had changed their text, as the situation changed. He did not even realize that this problem, a matter which touches the very heart of Germany, could dispense with his satanic and honey-sweet wordage. But he thought himself indispensable. He had not been on speaking terms with me since an exchange of words we had had on an occasion when I appeared in my old army uniform. He met me with: “What carnival costume are you dressed up in, Herr von PAPEN?” I answered: “Two million Germans died in this coat for the fatherland; they refused to be vilified by a degenerate intellectual”.
I left the Reich Chancery late at night. I had the uneasy feeling that once again a game was being played with Germany's fate. My conservative mind is incapable of endorsing revolutionary methods. Lord, I prayed, avoid renewed bloodshed between the sister nations.
HITLER had ordered his departure for headquarters, somewhere in Munich, for 6 o'clock in the morning. Fate marches on.
I remained in Berlin and followed the course of events breathlessly. Huge streamers in the newspapers tell of the cheering welcome given the German troops at the border and further inside the Austrian country. I would think them exaggerated, if I had not been a witness to HITLER's triumphal entry into Vienna two days later. Not a shot was fired—it was a war of flowers.
After his entry into Linz HITLER sent me a telegram, ordering me to Vienna. There he wished to seal the union of his old country with the Reich in a solemn act of state.
I met State Secretary Dr. LAMMERS at Tempelhof. We flew to Vienna together. He told me the details of the entry, of the overwhelming welcome offered our troops everywhere, of the way the Austrian regiments joined our own. The only disorder, he told me, had been caused by the participating SS Division, which had wished to arrive in Vienna before the army. Disregarding all discipline, it had recklessly disturbed the marching schedule. HITLER, LAMMERS continued, had detoured from Linz to visit
his parents' grave, and had deposited a wreath there, while his heart beat in his throat.
Then we spoke of Austria's future; I elaborated my thoughts on this, and he said: “Now you must become Reich High Commissioner [Reichsstatthalter] of Austria. You know the country so well; it will have confidence in you”. I replied: “It is always better to entrust an Austrian with this very delicate mission. He can know best what ails his countrymen. It must be a glorious mission, to make this beautiful country happy. Of one thing I am, however, certain: if HITLER should entrust me with this mission, then I would only accept it under the condition of complete independence of the German as well as Austrian Party".
"HITLER will never concede that. It is hopeless. The influence of the Party has constantly grown during these years of your absence from Germany. And near the top there rages a powerful struggle for the biggest influence on the Fuehrer; the struggle becomes more and more heated", LAMMERS said.
"All right”, I concluded, "then leave me out. But now is the time to show that statesmanlike wisdom is in order. I fear no foreign complications. If there had been bloodshed, complications would have had to be expected. But now the whole world has freely seen that the Austrian problem was a purely domestic German affair, a conciliation between brothers. But the world will show that much more interest in the sequel".
“I can only hope that I will not be cheated a second time of the work for the Reich which I have so laboriously advanced. I can only hope that today's success will not be misused like the Reich Concordat with Rome."
We landed at Aspern. As soon as I arrived at the embassy, my female secretaries reported that numerous Gestapo men had occupied my house on the evening of my departure from Vienna; protected by extraterritoriality they meant to await here Vienna's military occupation, in order to begin their filthy practice immediately thereafter. My whole family, the secretaries said, had flown away. Unfortunately, Baron von KETTELER had not flown with them, in spite of many efforts at persuasion. He had, in fact, disappeared since last night, and had not returned to his apartment. They were worried about him. Upon request of my secretaries, who had evil forebodings, I went immediately to the hotel in which the Gestapo had installed itself, and demanded to see HEYDRICH, who was in command there. He took down my information and promised immediate, thorough search, with the help of the Vienna police.
The solemn entry of the troops into Vienna, and a parade on
Heldenplatz Square, were scheduled for the afternoon. HITLER was expected any hour, and was to take quarters at Hotel “Imperial”. Vienna was like an ant hill. Swastika flags covered everything; the throngs on the streets and avenue threatened to squash you. The Austrian police maintained exemplary order.
I figured that the diplomats must be interested in seeing this entry, in order to give their governments a truthful account of the impressions created. Therefore I solemnly invited them to witness the parade from the Fuehrer's grandstand.
Almost all appeared at the appointed hour, except the French and English envoys.
One must have seen the scene which now came to life, in order to recount the impressions which it left. I have seen many grand parades and reviews in my life. Hundreds of thousands were staged in the Nuremberg Party conventions, and GOEBBELS had a million men march into the Berlin Stadium, in order to welcome MUSSOLINI. This thing in Vienna was something quite different. The magnificent streets of the city that day were crowded with throngs, who lined the way of entry of the German troops with incomparable, frenetic jubilation, and waited for HITLER. This was no GOEBBELS setting. It was a nation coming to the fore, a nation which had held the first place in Europe for centuries, which had been defeated after great bloody sacrifices, torn asunder in an unreasonable peace and humiliated and impoverished, but now saw a new future before it. It received in triumph the man who had grown from its own blood and was now to help it to renewed greatness.
As soon as I reached the grandstand I introduced the diplomats present to HITLER. They were all enchanted by this demonstration. My friend, the envoy of Poland, admitted that he had never thought such a thing possible. And the cheers of the throng knew no limit, when parts of the Austrian armed forces paraded by together with the German troops, like them covered with flowers. No reunion of two brothers could be more beautifully expressed than by this act at the Heroes' Gate [Heldentor] of the venerable old castle (Hofburg).
I could be satisfied with this historic finish to my work. A gracious fate had seen to it that the historic hour was not desecrated by the blood of brothers. But my thoughts revolved now about the question “What now?”. Was I still able to help shape the future?
There was one more service which I could give Austria. In this solemn hour HITLER had to be pinned down by a promise to prevent Austria's spiritual and religious bases from being
attacked, as they had been in the Reich. If he would promise to do so, everything might be won.
So I rushed to my friend, Herr von JAUNER and asked him to ascertain immediately whether Cardinal INNITZER was willing to meet HITLER. In short order Herr von JAUNER came back with his eminence's affirmative answer.
All that remained to be done now was to persuade HITLER to talk things over with this prince of the church. I knew that he had invariably avoided all conversations with cardinals or bishops in the Reich. But he was clever enough to see the effect such a friendly conversation would have at this moment on domestic and foreign policy.
A little later I conducted the Cardinal to HITLER's suite in the "Imperial”. I can still visualize the surprised faces of the Party Comrades who filled the whole house.
The conversation proceeded to both parties' entire satisfaction. His eminence declared that German feeling and thinking had never been lacking in Austria, but that the opposition against the “Anschluss" had been born exclusively of the fear of Nazism's revolutionary methods. He could promise the Austrian Catholics would become the most faithful sons of the great Reich, to whose arms this memorable day had returned them, provided that schools and church would continue to enjoy the freedom granted in the Concordat, and provided above all that the church would not be excluded from the education of youth—as it had been in the Reich.
HITLER rejoiced over the cardinal's patriotic words, shook his hands warmly and promised everything.
Although we know today that HITLER was lying, to him as to so many others, I am still glad that the cardinal was able to give evidence of the church's good will by this attempt.
My mission in Austria was at an end. I left a few days later.
The events following in the wake of these four years were to disrupt all legitimate rejoicing over their happy ending. The revolutionary elements, which did not dare to eliminate me personally, took their revenge in a different fashion.
Herr von KETTELER never reappeared—in spite of all our attempts to learn through the police what had happened. Our initial hopes that he had joined friends in Hungary proved false. He had last been seen at midnight, leaving my female secretary's apartment, in order to walk home. Afterwards an unknown car was reported seen in the same street; it may have picked him up. The police could not identify the car, although its number had been noted.