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Excerpts from Testimony of Franz von Papen, taken at
Papen's Doubts Concerning Hitler
A. [In English] I would like to discuss a few questions. The first was, whether I persuaded Hindenburg to take Hitler prior to the time Hindenburg separated himself from Schleicher. I am absolutely sure I did not because I know that I didn't separate Schleicher from Hindenburg. I had nothing against him. I can take an oath on that. People often think that if there is some change in high personalities, that there must be some intrigue behind it. People never know that some things go mostly straight without any intrigue and so I did nothing to remove Schleicher from his post. I have done nothing to remove Bruening from his post. You couldn't very well understand how Hindenburg changed his mind.
We didn't consider one fact, it seems to me. He couldn't go back on the order given to me on the first of December, and the situation having changed with the Nazi Party then, by the failure of Schleicher to get a split in the Party. Another reason is that the Reichstag didn't move at all. If the Reichstag wanted to prevent Hitler's coming into power, they could have formed a majority for von Schleicher to keep him in office. I asked you the last time what solution you would have suggested. I said with these facts, quite evidently Hindenburg understood there was no other way and there was no necessity for me to convince him of that. Then you asked me about when I got my first doubts about the situation. Of course, my political creed is manifest. I have made hundreds of speeches, and parts of them are published, and everybody knew what I was thinking about and that is true as to the main facts of the Hitler doctrine. It was my first hope to create as much security as possible around this new government. I had hoped, as a Vice-Chancellor, that I might have a chance to work with him and for him, but in no time at all did he let me do anything. He never was away one day and there was no deputy work to do anyway. I had no department as Vice-Chancellor. I could do things which were discussed in the session of the cabinet and so on, but no more. Certainly, I had many opportunities to make opposition to him at that time. For instance, I remember when we changed our flag. I tried very hard to convince von Blomberg that it was impossible to do so. The
second time that I remember, Hitler wanted to change Herr Hammerstein and replace him with a better Party man by the name of von Reichenau. I opposed that very much, but I must say that Herr von Blomberg, the War Minister at that time, had been already so much enveloped into the arms of Hitler that he opposed me. He knew that Marshal Hindenburg didn't want to have von Reichenau. He considered him much too young and inexperienced for this post, and von Blomberg went and asked for Hammerstein's dismissal to be replaced by von Reichenau.
Q. When would you place this incident that you have just talked about in time?
A. I think it was in the summer of '34. The non-fulfillment of the Concordat, after it had been signed, with the consent of Hitler he treated it just as a scrap of paper and I couldn't do anything. Then there was the persecution of the churches and the Jews at the same time. That was late in '33 and '34. Then we come to the question of the second revolution, when I made that speech in Marburg. I didn't tell you that when I came back to Berlin after that speech and heard that Goebbels had forbidden the publication of that speech in the German papers, that was the first time I gave my resignation to Hitler. Then he tried to keep me back and said, "Well, I will straighten it out. You see, it was not right for Goebbels not to give permission to publish it." These discussions between Hitler and Goebbels, if there were any, went on until the 30th of June. So the question of my dismissal was not decided then.
Papen's Part in Hitler's Rise to Power
Q. Are you familiar with the publication called "Das Deutsche Fuehrer Lexikon"?
A. It may be that I have seen it.
Q. Do you know what it is?
A. It is the "Who's Who”.
Q. You know it was put out each year in Germany after the Nazis came to power, wasn't it?
Q. Had you ever seen the edition of 1934 and 1935?
Q. Then you don't know how it describes you there?
Q. Have you ever heard that it says that your political activities made possible the rise of Hitler to power?
A. No, I haven't.
Q. You are not familiar with that?
A. I am sorry, I haven't read it yet. That to me is somewhat strange because, so far as I know, the Party never said a word about my political activities that helped them to get into power. Everywhere they succeeded by their own power and by their own skill.
Q. So you were really more or less an innocent bystander in all of these goings-on in January of 1933, is that it?
A. A bystander for what?
Q. You weren't involved very much. The Hitler people left you out and you were consulting with von Hindenburg, but you weren't promoting the interest of the Hitler people at all?
A. As I told you, when I got the conviction that Schleicher had failed, with the splitting of the party, and Hindenburg had not the intention to go any other way-I mean the way he told me on the 2d of December-then there was no other way out. May I just say this: in our parliamentary life, the taking in of a Party growing stronger every day is the ordinary way, but keeping the Party out is the extraordinary way and so why shouldn't we try? I mean as I told you, the program of Hitler had some good points in our eyes and the people who adhered to his Party came from all walks of life, not all bad elements. May I remind you of this: I remember in July or August when I was sitting in my home as Chancellor of Germany, in '32, when Mr. Schacht came to see me. He is a very intelligent man and it was in the presence of my wife. I have never forgotten it. He said to me, "Give up your place. Give it to Hitler. He is the only man who can save Germany." I remember it. He meant by that to say that I was not the only man believing that the experiment could be made.
Removal of Social Democrats from Power in Prussia
Q. After you became the Reichskommissar for Prussia, you proceeded promptly to depose a lot of these people who had been opposed to the Nazis?
A. It wasn't because they were opposed to the Nazis.
Q. Well, you did depose them, nevertheless, didn't you?
A. I did depose them, yes.
Q. Tell us your reason.
A. One day after I came back from the Lausanne Conference, Herr von Schleicher came to see me and said that he was in possession of very interesting news from the Ministry of Interior
of Prussia. He probably had a confidant there. The news was telling that the Social Democrats, then in power in Prussia, were dealing very intimately with the Communists and so it would be necessary to remove the Socialist government in Prussia. I don't remember the particulars, but the material was there and it was shown to the President of the Reich, von Hindenburg, and the idea of Schleicher was to remove the Socialist government there and institute a Reichskommissar. As I couldn't fulfill this duty, as a Chancellor having much more to do than I could, we agreed to take Herr Bracht, a man of the Center Party, a well-known man, a very good administrator, and he accepted and took it. Then I think it was the 20th of July in '32 the government was removed.
Q. Before we go any further into that subject, that was an illegal act, was it not?
A. No, certainly not.
Q. Didn't the Supreme Court say that it was?
A. It had been treated by the Supreme Court of Leipzig later on because it had been fought by the Social Democrats, but it was not illegal because the Reich President had signed the act on account of his possibility to sign an emergency decree.
Q. But the effect of it was to remove from places of prominence and importance, the democratic forces in Prussia?
A. You mustn't mix up the Social Democrats at that time with the general democratic forces. We had no desire to remove democratic forces anywhere, but the situation was not so simple as you perhaps may think it.
Q. It aroused a lot of feeling among the so-called democratic forces in Germany at the time?
A. No, not the democratic forces in Germany. It aroused feeling in the single states. They were anxious that we might do the same thing with them and incorporate them in the Reich. That was the main reason for the anxiety, not any feeling about the democracy.
Q. Didn't it further affect the Nazi Party's relations with the Centrists?
A. In Prussia things were quite different than in the Reich. In Prussia the Center Party had dealt with the Social Democrats since about ten years, I may say, since the war was over. As I told you, I have very often tried to get a coalition between the Center Party and the other parties, the middle parties of the Reich center, but they never wanted it. They were too closely connected with the Social Democrats and they always had dealings with the Social Democrats. The dealings were like this: the
Social Democrats, as reigning in Prussia, got two posts here, or three posts there, and the Center Party got one over here. So they made dealings all the time and we considered that not a very good idea for the ruling of the country. But there was another difficulty perhaps you wouldn't understand as a foreigner. The Reich had nothing to say in the interior things of the whole administration of the country. It was all Prussia and the Ministry of Interior of the Reich had nothing to do with it at all. So it was when the police matters, the Prussian police ruled the country, and even before my own home, the Chancellory, Prussian police were posted. So if, for instance, it were true that the Social Democrats had to deal with the Communists, then one good day I might have been arrested by the policemen and the Reich Chancellory put away. It is difficult to understand this situation, I imagine.
Q. A little later on the National Socialists tried to effect an agreement with the Centrists, did they not?
A. In Prussia?
Q. In the Reichstag. You had some difficulties. Do you remember the vote?
A. They were all against me, if you call that a coalition in that instance.
Q. The reason for that was that you hadn't gone far enough for the Nazis and had gone too far for the Centrists, isn't that so?
Hitler's Conferences with von Hindenburg, 1932
A. I know that twice during my Chancellorship, Hitler had audiences with Hindenburg.
Q. I am thinking of the first one, the one that took place shortly after this overwhelming vote in the Reichstag and the dissolution of the Reichstag. Do you recall that Hitler had an audience with von Hindenburg about that time?
Q. Were you present at that meeting?
A. No. I was not present. I was not present at any discussion. between Hindenburg and Hitler himself.
Q. You must know about what took place there that day? A. Yes.
Q. What happened?
A. The idea was to get Hitler into the government as he wanted to be Chancellor. Hindenburg refused.