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ranz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Köningen (German: [ˈfʁants fɔn ˈpaːpən] ( listen); 29 October 1879 – 2 May 1969) was a German nobleman, General Staff officer and politician. He served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933–34. He belonged to the group of close advisers to President Paul von Hindenburg in the late Weimar Republic. It was largely Papen, believing that Hitler could be controlled once he was in the government, who persuaded Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor in a cabinet not under Nazi Party domination. However, Papen and his allies were quickly marginalized by Hitler and he left the government after the Night of the Long Knives, during which some of his confidantes were killed by the Nazis.

Contents

  • 1 Background
  • 2 World War I
  • 3 Inter-war years
    • 3.1 Chancellorship
    • 3.2 Forced to resign
    • 3.3 Marburg Speech and downfall
    • 3.4 Night of the Long Knives
    • 3.5 Ambassador to Austria
  • 4 Second World War
  • 5 Post-war years
  • 6 Publications
  • 7 In popular culture

Background

Born into a rich and noble Roman Catholic family[1] in Werl, Westphalia, the son of Friedrich von Papen zu Köningen (1839–1906) and his wife Anna Laura von Steffens (1852–1939), Papen was trained as an army officer. He served for a period as a military attendant in the Kaiser's Palace, before joining the German General Staff in March 1913. He entered the diplomatic service in December 1913 as a military attaché to the German ambassador in the United States. In early 1914 he travelled to Mexico (to which he was also accredited) and observed the Mexican Revolution, returning to Washington, D.C. in August of that year on the outbreak of the First World War. He had married Martha von Boch-Galhau (1880–1961) on 3 May 1905. Von Papen as the German Military Attaché in Washington, D.C. (1914)

World War I

During the autumn of 1914, while attached to the German Embassy in Washington D.C., Papen's "natural proclivities for intrigue got him involved in espionage activities."[2] As a result, some sixteen months into the European War he was expelled from the United States for alleged complicity in the planning of acts of sabotage, such as the Vanceboro international bridge bombing to destroy US rail lines.[3] On 28 December 1915, he was declared persona non grata after his exposure and was recalled to Germany.[4]

Setting out on the journey, his luggage was confiscated, and 126 cheque

stubs were found showing payments to his agents. Papen went on to report on American attitudes, both to General Erich von Falkenhayn and to Wilhelm II, the German Emperor. In April 1916, a United States federal grand jury issued an indictment against Papen for a plot to blow up Canada's Welland Canal, which connects Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, but Papen was by then safely home; he remained under indictment until he became Chancellor of Germany, at which time the charges were dropped.[4]

Later in the World War, Papen returned to the army on active service, 

first on the Western Front, from 1917 as an officer on the General Staff in the Middle East, and then as an officer attached to the Ottoman army in Palestine.

Papen also served as an intermediary between the Irish Volunteers and the German government regarding the purchase and delivery of arms to be used against the British during the Easter Rising of 1916, as well as serving as an intermediary with the Indian nationalists in the Hindu German Conspiracy. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, he returned to Germany and left the army soon after the armistice which halted the fighting in November 1918.

Inter-war years

He entered politics and joined the Centre Party, in which the monarchist Papen formed part of the conservative wing. He was a member of the parliament of Prussia from 1921 to 1932. In the 1925 presidential elections, Papen surprised his party by supporting the right-wing candidate Paul von Hindenburg over the Centre Party's Wilhelm Marx.

Papen was a member of the "Deutscher Herrenklub" (German Gentlemen's Club) of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck.

Chancellorship

Office Incumbent In office Party
Chancellor Franz von Papen 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Foreign Affairs Konstantin von Neurath 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Finance Lutz von Krosigk 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Defence Kurt von Schleicher 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of the Interior Wilhelm von Gayl 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 DNVP
Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 DNVP
Minister of Economics Hermann Warmbold 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Labour Hugo Schäffer 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Posts and Transport Paul von Eltz-Rübenach 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 None
Minister of Agriculture Magnus von Braun 1 June 1932 – 17 November 1932 DNVP[5]

On 1 June 1932 he moved from relative obscurity to supreme importance when president Paul von Hindenburg appointed him Chancellor, even though this meant replacing his own party's Heinrich Brüning. The day before, he had promised party chairman Ludwig Kaas he would not accept any appointment. After he broke his pledge, Kaas branded him the "Ephialtes of the Centre Party"; Papen forestalled being expelled from the party by leaving it on 3 June 1932.

Chancellor Papen (left) with his eventual successor, Minister of Defence Kurt von Schleicher

Papen owed his appointment to the Chancellorship to General Kurt von Schleicher, an old friend from the pre-war General Staff and influential advisor of President Hindenburg. It was Schleicher, not Papen, who selected the new cabinet, in which he also became Defence Minister.[6]

The French ambassador in Berlin, André François-Poncet, wrote at the time that Papen's selection by Hindenburg as chancellor was "'met with incredulity'. [...] Papen," the ambassador continued, "enjoyed the peculiarity of being taken seriously by neither his friends nor his enemies. He was reputed to be superficial, blundering, untrue, ambitious, vain, crafty and an intriguer." [7]

The cabinet which Papen formed was known as the "cabinet of barons" or as the "cabinet of monocles"[8] and was widely regarded with ridicule by Germans. Papen had virtually no support in the Reichstag; the only party committed to supporting him was the far-right/national conservative German National People's Party (DNVP).

Papen was authoritarian by inclination. Richard J. Evans described his philosophy as "utopian conservatism" due to his long-term goal of restoring a modern version of the Ancien Régime. He imposed increasingly stringent censorship on the press and repealed his predecessor's ban on the Sturmabteilung (SA) as a way to appease the Nazis, whom he hoped to lure into supporting his government.[9] In July 1932, he launched a coup against the centre-left coalition government of Prussia (the so-called Preußenschlag). Use of the police apparatus in the Prussian "coup" on 20 July 1932 is described by historians Carsten Dams and Michael Stolle as "the decisive breach on the path towards the Third Reich."[10] Riots resulted on the streets of Berlin, as a total of 461 battles between Communists and the SA took place, leading to 82 deaths on both sides. Berlin was put on military shutdown and Papen sent men to arrest the Prussian authorities, whom he suspected of being in league with the Communists. Hereafter, Papen declared himself commander of the Prussian region by way of an emergency decree which he elicited from Hindenburg, further weakening the democracy of the Weimar Republic.[11]

Soon afterward, Papen called a national election for July 1932, in the hope of securing a majority in the Reichstag. However, he did not even come close, and the Nazis gained 123 seats, becoming the largest party. The historian Mary Fulbrook writes that by gaining this political power the Nazis formed "an anti-parliamentary majority not prepared to tolerate the government of von Papen."[12] When the new Reichstag

first assembled, Papen hoped to use the opportunity to drop all 

pretense of democracy. He obtained in advance from Hindenburg a decree to dissolve it, then secured another decree to suspend elections for the time being.[13]

He did not take the dissolution decree with him to the first session, 

having received a promise that there would be an immediate objection to an expected Communist motion of no confidence. However, when no one objected, Papen ordered one of his messengers to fetch the dissolution decree. He demanded the floor in order to read it, but the newly elected Reichstag president, Hermann Göring, pretended not to see him; the Nazis had decided to support the Communist motion.[14]

The no-confidence vote passed by an overwhelming 512–42 margin. 

Realizing that he did not have nearly enough support to go through with his plan to subvert the republic from within, Papen was forced to call another election.[13]

Chancellor Franz von Papen making an address on American radio in 1932

Forced to resign

In the November 1932 election the Nazis lost seats, but Papen was still unable to get a majority. Papen then decided to try to negotiate with Hitler, but Hitler's reply contained so many conditions that Papen gave up all hope of reaching agreement. Soon afterward, under pressure from Schleicher, Papen resigned on 17 November. Papen held out hope of being reappointed by Hindenburg, fully expecting that the aging president would find Hitler's demands unacceptable. Indeed, when Schleicher suggested on 1 December that he might be able to get support from the Nazis, Hindenburg blanched and told Papen to try to form another government. However, at a cabinet meeting the next day, Papen was informed that there was no way to maintain order against the Nazis and Communists. Realizing that Schleicher was deliberately trying to undercut him, Papen asked Hindenburg to fire Schleicher as defence minister. Instead, Hindenburg told Papen that he was appointing Schleicher as chancellor. Schleicher hoped to establish a broad coalition government by gaining the support of both Nazi and Social Democratic trade unionists. As it became increasingly obvious that Schleicher would be unsuccessful in his maneuvering to maintain his chancellorship under a parliamentary majority, Papen worked to undermine Schleicher. Along with DNVP leader Alfred Hugenberg, Papen formed an agreement with Hitler under which the Nazi leader would become Chancellor of a coalition government with the Nationalists, with Papen serving as Vice-Chancellor and Minister President of Prussia.

On 23 January 1933 Schleicher admitted to Hindenburg that he had been unable to obtain a majority of the Reichstag, and asked the president to declare a state of emergency. By this time, the elderly Hindenburg had become irritated by the Schleicher cabinet's policies affecting wealthy landowners and industrialists. Simultaneously, Papen had been working behind the scenes and used his personal friendship with Hindenburg to assure the president that he, Papen, could control Hitler and could thus finally form a government based on the support of the majority of the Reichstag. Hindenburg refused to grant Schleicher the emergency powers he sought, and Schleicher resigned on 28 January. In the end, the President, who previously vowed never to allow Hitler (whom he derisively referred to as 'Bohemian corporal'), to become Chancellor, appointed Hitler to the post on 30 January 1933, with Papen as Vice-Chancellor.[15]

Von Papen with Hitler on 1 May 1933


At the formation of Hitler's cabinet on 30 January, only three Nazis had cabinet posts: Hitler, Göring, and Wilhelm Frick. The only Nazi besides Hitler to have an actual portfolio was Frick, who held the then-powerless interior ministry. The other eight posts were held by conservatives close to Papen. Additionally, as part of the deal that allowed Hitler to become Chancellor, Papen was granted the right to sit in on every meeting between Hitler and Hindenburg.

Under the Weimar Constitution, the Chancellor was a fairly weak figure, serving as little more than a chairman. Moreover, Cabinet decisions were made by majority vote. With this in mind, Papen anticipated "boxing Hitler in," believing that his conservative friends' majority in the Cabinet and his closeness to Hindenburg would keep Hitler in check. Papen boasted to intimates that "Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far in the corner that he'll squeak." To the warning that he was placing himself in Hitler's hands, Papen replied, "You are mistaken. We've hired him." [16]

However, Hitler and his allies instead quickly marginalized Papen and the rest of the cabinet. For example, as part of the deal between Hitler and Papen, Göring had been appointed interior minister of Prussia, thus putting the largest police force in Germany under Nazi control. He frequently acted without consulting his nominal superior, Papen. Neither Papen nor his conservative allies waged a fight against the Reichstag Fire Decree in late February or the Enabling Act in March. Even the German Federal Constitutional Court, which had the authority to challenge the move, "accepted the validity of the Enabling Act".[17]

On 8 April Papen traveled to the Vatican to offer a Reichskonkordat that defined the German state's relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. During Papen's absence, the Nazified Landtag of Prussia elected Göring as prime minister on 10 April. Conscious of his own increasing marginalisation as more ardent Nazis began to assume power in the government, Papen began covert talks with other conservative forces with the aim of convincing Hindenburg to dismiss Hitler. Of special importance in these talks was the growing conflict between the German military and the paramilitary SA, led by Ernst Röhm. In early 1934 Röhm continued to demand that the storm troopers of the SA become the core of a new German army.[18]

Many conservatives, including Hindenburg, felt uneasy with the storm 

troopers' demands, their lack of discipline and their revolutionary tendencies.

Marburg Speech and downfall

Main article: Marburg speech

With the Army command recently having hinted at the need for Hitler to control the SA, Papen delivered an address at the University of Marburg on 17 June 1934 where he called for the restoration of some freedoms, demanded an end to the calls for a "second revolution" [19] and advocated the cessation of SA terror in the streets. In the 'Marburg speech' Papen said that "The government [must be] mindful of the old maxim 'only weaklings suffer no criticism'" and that "No organization, no propaganda, however excellent, can alone maintain confidence in the long run." The speech was crafted by Papen's speech writer, Edgar Julius Jung, with the assistance of Papen's secretary Herbert von Bose and Catholic leader Erich Klausener. Jung's pen reflected Papen's misgivings, evidenced in one of the stronger warnings contained within the 'Marburg speech'; whereby Papen presciently exclaimed, "Germany must not turn into a train heading off into the blue yonder, with no one knowing when it will stop."[20]

The vice-chancellor's bold speech incensed Hitler, and its publication was suppressed by the Propaganda Ministry. Angered by this reaction and stating that he had spoken on behalf of Hindenburg, Papen told Hitler that he was resigning and would inform Hindenburg at once. Hitler knew that accepting the resignation of Hindenburg's long-time confidant, especially during a time of tumult, would anger the ailing president. He guessed right; not long afterward Hindenburg gave Hitler an ultimatum – unless he acted to end the state of tension in Germany, Hindenburg would throw him out of office and turn over control of the government to the army.

Night of the Long Knives

Two weeks after the Marburg speech, Hitler responded to the armed forces' demands to suppress the ambitions of Röhm and the SA by purging the SA leadership. The purge, known as the Night of the Long Knives, took place between 30 June and 2 July 1934. In the purge, Röhm and much of the SA leadership were murdered. General Kurt von Schleicher, the former Chancellor who had been scheming with some of Hitler's rivals within the party to separate them from their leader, was gunned down along with his wife. Also Gustav von Kahr, the conservative who had thwarted the Beer Hall Putsch more than ten years earlier, was killed and thrown into a swamp. The architects of the purge: Hitler, Göring, Goebbels, and Hess. Only Himmler and Heydrich are missing.

Though Papen's bold speech against some of the excesses committed by the Nazis had angered Hitler, the latter was aware that he could not act directly against the Vice-Chancellor without offending Hindenburg. Instead, in the Night of the Long Knives, the Vice-Chancellery, Papen's office, was ransacked by the Schutzstaffel

(SS); his associate Herbert von Bose was shot dead at his desk. Another

associate, Erich Klausener, was also shot dead at his desk at the Ministry of Transport. Many more were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps where Jung, amongst others, was shot a few days later. Papen himself was placed under house arrest at his villa with his telephone line cut, although some accounts indicate that this "protective custody" was ordered by Göring, who felt the ex-diplomat could be useful in the future. Other sources suggest that Papen had shared a place with Schleicher on an SS "death list", and that Göring had in fact saved him from the purge by ordering his confinement, possibly unwittingly after personal disputes. Understandably, Papen vehemently objected to being taken into custody, but he later came to the realization that Göring had indeed saved his life.[21]

Reportedly Papen arrived at the Chancellery, exhausted from days of house arrest without sleep, to find the Chancellor seated with other Nazi ministers around a round table, with no place for him but a hole in the middle. He insisted on a private audience with Hitler and announced his resignation, stating, "My service to the Fatherland is over!" The following day, Papen's resignation as Vice-Chancellor was formally accepted and publicised, with no successor appointed. With Hindenburg's death weeks later, the last conservative obstacle to complete Nazi rule was gone.[22]

Ambassador to Austria

Despite the events of the Night of the Long Knives, Franz von Papen still had a role to play in the regime. Since Hitler wanted Papen out of Berlin, he offered him the assignment of German ambassador to Vienna, where Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss had just been murdered in a failed Nazi coup, which was brutally suppressed. Gerhard Weinberg asserts that Papen went to work at this point using "subversive tactics" in Vienna similar to those he employed against the United States during the First World War.[23] In Hitler's words and from what Papen later remarked, his duty was to restore "normal and friendly relations" between Germany and Austria.[24]

Papen also contributed to achieving Hitler's goal of undermining 

Austrian sovereignty and bringing about the Nazis' long-dreamed-of Anschluss (annexation by Germany). Winston Churchill reported in his book The Gathering Storm

(1948) that Hitler appointed Papen for "the undermining or winning over

of leading personalities in Austrian politics". Churchill also quoted the United States ambassador in Vienna as saying of Papen that "in the boldest and most cynical manner... Papen proceeded to tell me that... he intended to use his reputation as a good Catholic to gain influence with Austrians like Cardinal Innitzer."[25]

Ironically, one of the plots called for Papen's murder by Austrian Nazi sympathisers as a pretext for a retaliatory invasion by Germany.[26]

Throughout negotiations for the Anschluss with Austria, Papen (with knowledge that both Catholic Rome and Mussolini were uneasy about the affair) urged Hitler to proceed cautiously so as not to disturb their relationship with the Italians.[27]

Though Papen was dismissed from his mission in Austria on 4 February 1938, Hitler drafted him to arrange a meeting between the German dictator and Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden.[28]

The ultimatum that Hitler presented to Schuschnigg, at the meeting on 

12 February 1938, led to the Austrian government's capitulation to German threats and pressure, and paved the way for the Anschluss. On 13 March 1938, Hitler signed the "Law concerning the Reunion (sic) of Austria with the German Reich" making the Anschluss

official. In the moments immediately following the union of Germany and

Austria, Hitler sat motionless as tears of joy streamed down his face.[29]

Papen was not there to experience this moment, perhaps fortunately for 

him since this alleged "aggression" against Austria was later recalled during the Nuremberg Trials.

Second World War

Papen later served the German government as Ambassador to Turkey from 1939 to 1944. There, he survived a Soviet assassination attempt on 24 February 1942 by agents from the NKVD[30]—a bomb exploded prematurely, killing the bomber and no-one else, although Papen was slightly injured. After Pope Pius XI died in February 1939, his successor Pope Pius XII did not renew Papen's honorary title of Papal chamberlain. As nuncio, the future Pope John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli, was acquainted with Papen in Greece and Turkey during World War II. The German government considered appointing Papen ambassador to the Holy See, but Pope Pius XII, after consulting Konrad von Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, rejected this proposal.

In August 1944, Papen had his last meeting with Hitler after arriving back in Germany from Turkey. Here, Hitler awarded Papen the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross.[31]

Benzenhofen, near Ravensburg

Post-war years

Papen was captured along with his son Franz Jr. at his own home by First Lieutenant Thomas McKinley[32] and members of the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, in April 1945. McKinley rushed into the lodge to find Franz von Papen having dinner with his family. McKinley pulled out a photograph and identified Papen. McKinley then told Papen that he was his prisoner; Papen stated in reply, "I don't know what the Americans would want with an old man of 65 like me!" Nonetheless, McKinley sat down and ate dinner with Papen before taking him captive. Papen was heard to remark (in English), "I wish this terrible war were over." Sergeant Fredericks responded, "So do 11 million other guys!" Also present during the capture was a small band from the 550th Airborne glider Infantry.[33] Papen was one of the defendants at the main Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. The proceedings against Franz von Papen about his participation in the crimes of Nazi aggression, particularly those concerning his actions during the Austrian Anschluss were unconvincing. The investigating Tribunal found no solid evidence to support claims that Papen supported the occupation of Austria.[34]

The court acquitted him, stating that while he had committed a number 

of "political immoralities," these actions were not punishable under the "conspiracy to commit crimes against peace" written in Papen's indictment. He was subsequently sentenced to eight years hard labour by a West German denazification court, but was released on appeal in 1949.[35]

Papen tried unsuccessfully to restart his political career in the 1950s; he lived at the Castle of Benzenhofen in Upper Swabia.

Pope John XXIII restored his title of Papal Chamberlain on 24 July 1959. Papen was also a Knight of Malta, and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Pontifical Order of Pius IX.

Papen published a number of books and memoirs, in which he defended his policies and dealt with the years 1930 to 1933 as well as early western Cold War politics. Papen praised the Schuman Plan as "wise and statesmanlike" and believed in the economic and military unification and integration of Western Europe.[36]

Franz von Papen died in Obersasbach, West Germany, on 2 May 1969 at the age of 89.[37]

Von Papen's grave in Wallerfangen, Saarland

Publications

    • Appell an das deutsche Gewissen. Reden zur nationalen Revolution, Stalling, Oldenburg, 1933
    • Franz von Papen Memoirs, Translated by Brian Connell, Andre Deutsch, London, 1952
    • Der Wahrheit eine Gasse, Paul List Verlag, München 1952
    • Europa, was nun? Betrachtungen zur Politik der Westmächte, Göttinger Verlags-Anstalt, Göttingen 1954
    • Vom Scheitern einer Demokratie. 1930 – 1933, Hase und Koehler, Mainz 1968

In popular culture

Franz von Papen has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theatrical productions;[38]

    • Paul Everton in the 1918 U.S. film The Eagle's Eye
    • Curt Furburg in the 1943 U.S. film Background to Danger
    • Walter Kingsford in the 1944 U.S. film The Hitler Gang
    • John Wengraf in the 1952 U.S. film 5 Fingers
    • Peter von Zerneck in the 1973 U.S. T.V. production Portrait: A Man Whose Name Was John
    • Dennis St John in the 2000 Canadian/U.S. T.V. production Nuremberg
    • Erland Josephson in the 2003 Italian/British T.V. production The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII
    • Robert Russell in the 2003 Canadian/U.S. T.V. production Hitler: The Rise of Evil
    • Georgi Novakov in the 2006 British television docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial

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