The World at War


Chancellor Franz von Papen

Franz von Papen was born October 29th, 1879 at Werl, Germany to a wealthy landowning family. He decided like so many young men of the time on a military career. The outbreak of the Great War found him serving as military attache in Washington but he was soon recalled after being implicated in cases of espionage. Until the end of the war he served as chief of staff of the Turkish 4th Army in Palestine.
     Upon his return to Germany after the war, von Papen, as a monarchist, decided to enter politics and from 1921 to 1932 he was a deputy of the ultraright wing of the Catholic Center Party. Von Papen had no real political following of his own and his elevation to the chancellorship was engineered by General Kurt von Schleicher, chief advisor to the aged President von Hindenburg.
     The government that von Papen established could be best described as rightwing and authoritarian. He lifted the ban on the Nazi paramilitary SA in June of 1932, the same month that he deposed the Social Democratic government of Prussia. Among his few real achievements was the cancellation of Germany's reparations to the Allies but Hitler who wanted to rule Germany himself remained in opposition. Von Papen's reactionary policies and attempt to replace the Weimar constitution with authoritarian rule soon alienated General von Schleicher who induced a number of cabinet ministers to reject von Papen's policies and the chancellor soon resigned and was replaced by von Schleicher.
     Papen, who burned with resentment at this state of affairs came to an agreement with Hitler and was instrumental in persuading von Hindenburg to appoint the Nazi leader to the chancellorship. Von Papen would be vice chancellor, a position from which he naively thought he would be able to retrain Hitler. He soon realized his mistake but continued to serve in his position. He narrowly escaped death during the purge of the SA (night of the long knives) and resigned three days later on July 2, 1934. He was sent as ambassador to Austria where he helped engineer the annexation with Germany. Next he served in Turkey and was instrumental in keeping that country out of alliance with the Allies.
     Von Papen was arrested in April 1945 and place on trial at Nuremberg where he was found not guilty of conspiracy to prepare for aggressive war but was sentenced to eight years by a German court for being a major nazi figure but upon appeal was released in 1949 and fined. His memoirs "Der Wahrheit eine Gasse" appeared in 1952. He died at ninty years of age in 1969 having lived, as the Irish would say, in interesting times.

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