Franz von Papen (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 the Nazis killed some of his confidantes.
Born into a wealthy and noble Roman Catholic family 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 and as a Herrenreiter ("gentleman rider"), a sport Papen very much enjoyed. Papen was proud of his family's having been granted hereditary rights since the 13th century to mine salt at Werl. Papen always believed in the superiority of the aristocracy over commoners. An excellent horseman and a man of much charm, Papen cut a dashing figure and during this time, made the fateful friendship with Kurt von Schleicher. He had married Martha von Boch-Galhau (1880–1961) on 3 May 1905. Papen's wife was the daughter of a wealthy Saarland industrialist whose dowry made him a very rich man. Fluent in both French and English, Papen traveled widely all over Europe, the Middle East and North America.
Papen served for a period as a military attendant in the Kaiser's Palace, before joining the German General Staff in March 1913. Papen was devoted to Wilhelm II, believing that the Kaiser was always right and just, which justified breaking international law, which Papen dismissed as insignificant compared to the greatness of the Kaiser. The most important intellectual influence on the young Papen were the books of General Friedrich von Bernhardi, who wrote war is "not only an integral part of humanity, but the great civilizing influence of the world". Throughout his life, recurring themes of Papen's philosophy were an intense militarism, a belief that Germany had to wage war on others to be great in the Social Darwinian competition of nations, and that "might is right".
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, DC in August of that year on the outbreak of the First World War.
In February 1913, General Victoriano Huerta came to power in Mexico by overthrowing President Francisco Madero, who was then "shot while trying to escape", which was the standard euphemism for extrajudicial executions in Mexico. As the United States had imposed an arms embargo on Mexico as Huerta had come to power via a coup, Huerta had to buy arms from Europe and Japan in order to fight the nationwide insurrection that had broken out against his rule in 1913 almost immediately after his coup d'état. Papen supported the idea of selling German arms to Huerta, and was most anxious to go to Mexico City to win Huerta's friendship. Ideas about white supremacy were widely accepted all over the Western world at the time, which led most Westerners to have a dismissive view of the Mexican people as most Mexicans were either Indians or mestizos (of mixed Spanish and Indian descent), and only a minority were Spanish immigrants or their criollo descendants. The Mexican Revolution was viewed at the time in the West in racist terms, as the sort of murderous anarchy that was alleged to result when Indians and mestizos had too much freedom. As a result, all of the European governments backed General Huerta, who attempted to create an intensely militarist regime as the best man to impose the "iron hand" alleged to be needed to "pacify" Mexico. Papen shared these views, reporting to Berlin that Huerta was "the only strong man" in Mexico, who could impose the "iron hand".
During his time in Mexico, Papen differed with ambassador von Hintze about the long-term viability of Huerta's regime with Papen arguing Huerta would prevail provided that he received enough support. At one time, when the anti-Huerta Zapatistas were advancing on Mexico City, Papen organized a group of European volunteers to fight for Huerta. In the spring of 1914, as German military attaché to Mexico, Papen was deeply involved in selling arms to the government of General Huerta, believing he could place Mexico in the German sphere of influence, though the collapse of Huerta's regime in July 1914 ended that hope. In April 1914, Papen personally observed the Battle of Veracruz when the US seized the city of Veracruz, despite orders from Berlin to stay in Mexico City. During his time in Mexico, Papen acquired the love of international intrigue and adventure that was to characterize his later diplomatic postings in the United States, Austria and Turkey.
On July 30, 1914, Papen arrived in Washington, DC from Mexico to take up his post as German military attaché to the United States. Papen in a statement to the US press declared that Germany was right to invade Belgium despite its treaty commitments to uphold Belgian neutrality, declaring "necessity knows no law", as Papen maintained the invasion of Belgium was an act of "self-defense". Papen tried to buy weapons in the United States for his country, but the British blockade made shipping arms to Germany almost impossible. During the autumn of 1914, while attached to the German Embassy in Washington, DC, Papen's "natural proclivities for intrigue got him involved in espionage activities." On 22 August 1914, Papen hired US private detective Paul Koeing, based in New York City, to conduct a sabotage and bombing campaign against businesses in New York owned by citizens from the Allied nations. Papen knew that agents for the British, French and Russian governments were buying war supplies in the United States, which led Papen, who was given an unlimited fund of cash to draw on by Berlin, to attempt to block such efforts. Papen set up a front company that tried to buy every hydraulic press in the US for the next two years to limit artillery shell production by US firms with contracts with the Allies. To enable German citizens living in the Americas to go home to the Fatherland, Papen set up in New York an operation to forge US passports, with one agent of the Bureau of Investigation who infiltrated the passport mill reporting: "He [Papen] has a list of German reservists in this country, and is in touch with German consulates throughout the country, and in Peru, Chile, Mexico, etc. He communicates with them, and the consuls send the reservists on to New York".
Starting in September 1914, Papen abused his diplomatic immunity (which he enjoyed as German military attaché) and US neutrality to start organising plans for an invasion of Canada, recruiting both German-Americans and Irish-Americans who were to wear a cowboy uniform of Papen's own design to seize Canada in order to force the UK to make peace with Germany on German terms. Papen's inspiration for his plans to invade Canada were the Fenian raids. The Canadian historian Bryon Elson called Papen's plans for invading Canada "farcical". In a prelude to the invasion of Canada, Papen planned on sending men into Canada to sabotage the Welland Canal together with plans to blow up bridges and railroads all over Canada, thereby shutting down the Canadian economy and making it impossible for the Canadians to send troops to Europe. In his reports to Berlin, Papen stated that he gave a US man, a Mr. Bridgeman-Taylor, some $500 to buy explosives to blow up the Welland Canal.
In October 1914, Papen became involved in the Hindu–German Conspiracy, when he contacted anti-British Indian nationalists living in California, and arranged for weapons to be handed over to them. In February 1915, Papen paid a German man Werner Horn $700 to blow up a bridge owned by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Vanceboro, Maine. Horn was arrested after blowing up the Vanceboro bridge, and the subsequent investigation pointed at Papen as the man responsible, though Papen's diplomatic immunity protected him from arrest. At the same time, Papen was involved in plans to restore the former Mexican President General Victoriano Huerta to power, with Papen arranging for the financing of the planned invasion of Mexico and traveling along the US-Mexican border to find the best invasion routes. After Huerta arrived in New York in May 1915, he met at various times with Papen, Karl Boy-Ed and Franz von Rintelen, each of whom insisted that he alone could speak for Germany.
Papen was able to exclude Rintelen from talking to Huerta, but unknown to him, he was being monitored by the British, who hired a Czech electrician to hide a microphone in the hotel room that Huerta was staying at, allowing them to listen in to all their talks. Papen bought 8,000 rounds of ammunition in St. Louis for the Huertista émigrés and had $800,000 deposited in the Deutsche Bank branch in Havana in an account that Papen had opened up in Huerta's name. Additionally, Papen planned in February–March 1915 to send a New Orleans man named Petersdorf to blow up the oil fields in Tampico, Mexico owned by British oil companies, though the plan was vetoed by the German Navy, which had been able to buy Mexican oil via the Standard Oil company, and felt that a sabotage campaign against Mexican oil fields would strain relations with Mexico too much.
The British historian Donald Cameron Watt wrote that Papen's general incompetence could be seen in that he "… was so careless of his secret documents as to betray to British intelligence most of the activities of the German sabotage ring organized by Captain von Rintelen". One of the documents lost in the briefcase left on a New York tram was a letter that was leaked to the US press where Papen wrote to his wife: "How splendid are things on the Eastern Front. I always say to these idiotic Yankees that they should shut their mouths, or better still, express their admiration for all that heroism". The US press hounded Papen on his "idiotic Yankees" remark, and during a visit to San Francisco, Papen told a journalist that he only meant certain New York newspapers were "idiotic", not the US people in general, claiming that the US media were out to defame him, a statement that only made matters worse for him as any reading of his letter clearly did not support that interpretation. Unknown to Papen, the British had broken the German diplomatic codes, and in late 1915 presented the US government with intercepts of messages showing that Papen had been raising a "legion" for the invasion of Canada; was involved in acts of sabotage and plans for sabotage all over Canada, the United States and Mexico; and sundry other violations of US neutrality.
As a result, some sixteen months into the European War he was expelled from the United States for complicity in the planning of acts of sabotage, such as the Vanceboro international bridge bombing to destroy US rail lines. On 28 December 1915, he was declared persona non grata after his exposure and was recalled to Germany. 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 US attitudes, both to General Erich von Falkenhayn and to Wilhelm II, the German Emperor. Even after returning to Germany, Papen remained involved in plots in the Americas as he contacted in February 1916 the Mexican Colonel Gonzalo Enrile, living in Cuba, in an attempt to arrange German support for Félix Díaz, the would-be strongman of Mexico. Papen arranged for Enrile to go to Berlin in April 1916 to pick up the money he said he needed to make Díaz president, though these plans were derailed when the Germans objected to Enrile's demand that he needed "only" a sum equal to $300 million US in 2016 values to overthrow President Venustiano Carranza. 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. 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. As a Roman Catholic, Papen belonged to the Zentrum, the right of the center party that almost all German Catholics supported, but during the course of the war, the nationalist conservative Papen became estranged from his party. Papen disapproved of Matthias Erzberger, whose efforts to pull the Zentrum to the left, he was opposed to and regarded the Reichstag Peace Resolution of 19 July 1917 as almost treason.
Later in the World War, Papen returned to the army on active service, first on the Western Front. In 1916 Papen took command of the 2nd Reserve Battalion of the 93rd Regiment of the 4th Guards Infantry Division fighting in Flanders. The Guards units of the Prussian Army had the responsibility of protecting Wilhelm II in peacetime, so a posting to a Guards unit was very prestigious. On 22 August 1916 Papen's battalion took heavy losses while successfully resisting a British attack on the river Somme that earned him praise for his courage under fire from his commanders. Between November 1916–February 1917, Papen's battalion was engaged in almost continuous heavy fighting, where Papen displayed coolness under fire and a certain "reckless courage" as he seemed to have no fear of death, but other officers criticized him for his tendency to charge into things without thinking matters through. On 11 April 1917, Papen fought at Vimy Ridge, where his battalion was defeated with heavy losses by the Canadian Corps. The Germans had held Vimy Ridge against repeated French attacks in 1915 and British attacks in 1916, and the ridge become a symbol of German power, so its loss in only one day's fighting to the Canadian corps was considered humiliating. In a report after Vimy, Papen's commanding officers praised him for his courage and elan as he resisted the Canadian assault up the heights of Vimy, ordering counter-attack after counter-attack, but criticised him for poor planning and execution of his counterattacks. Papen argued that the defeat was not so bad as the Canadian Corps were unsuccessful for the previous four weeks in attempting to take Vimy, so its loss in only one day was really not that bad. After Vimy, Papen stated he was tired of commanding infantrymen in defensive battles on the Western Front, and asked for a transfer to the Middle East, where he could fight in offensive battles as a cavalryman, the style of war in which he had been trained, and which suited his personality better. Significantly, Papen's commanding officers were not sorry to lose him, and approved his request to go to the Ottoman Empire.
From June 1917 Papen served as an officer on the General Staff in the Middle East, and then as an officer attached to the Ottoman army in Palestine. During his time in the Ottoman Empire, Papen was in "the know" about the Armenian genocide, which did not appear to have morally troubled him at all either at the time or later in his life. During his time in Constantinople, Papen made another fateful friendship when he befriended Joachim von Ribbentrop. Between October–December 1917, Papen took part in the heavy fighting in Palestine between the German-Ottoman forces under Falkenhayn that were resisting the advance of General Allenby's British-Australian-Indian forces. Papen committed everything he knew to a personal diary, which he kept on his person at all times; during a skirmish at night with British cavalry in Palestine, Papen dropped his diary as he fled, which was found by the British the next morning. 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.
After the Ottomans signed an armistice with the Allies on 30 October 1918, the German Asia Corps was ordered home, and Papen was in the mountains at Karapunar when he heard on 11 November 1918 that the war was over. Papen was shocked to hear that his nation had been defeated and his revered monarchy had been toppled, writing "...it was the collapse of every value we had ever known, made even more painful by exile". The new republic ordered soldier's councils to be organized in the German Army, including the Asian corps, which General Otto Liman von Saunders attempted to obey, and which Papen refused to obey. Saunders ordered Papen arrested for his insubordination, which caused Papen to leave his post without permission as he fled to Germany in civilian clothing to personally meet Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, to ask for his help. Hindenburg also disapproved of the soldier's councils, and the charges against Papen were dropped after the latter had explained his story to him.
After leaving the German Army, Papen purchased a country estate, the Haus Merfeld, living the life of a "gentleman farmer" in Dülmen. In April 1920, during the Communist uprising in the Ruhr, Papen took command of a Freikorps unit to protect Roman Catholicism from the "Red marauders". Impressed with his leadership of his Freikorps unit, the majority of whom were simple farmers, devout in their Catholicism, who instinctively looked to an aristocrat for leadership, Papen decided to pursue a career in politics. In the fall of 1920, the president of the Westphalian Farmer's Association, Baron Engelbert von Kerkerinck zur Borg told Papen his association would campaign for him if he ran for the Prussian Landtag.
Papen entered politics and joined the Centre Party, better known as the Zentrum, in which the monarchist Papen formed part of the conservative wing. Papen belonged to a wing of the Zentrum that was opposed to his party's role as part of the Weimar Coalition, making him very much an outsider in his party. Papen's politics were much closer to the German National People's Party than to the Zentrum, and he seems to have belonged to the Zentrum only on the account of his Roman Catholicism. The German historian Ulrike Ehret called Papen a "fellow traveler" with the Catholic Right, a group of ultra-conservative Catholic intellectuals who rejected democracy, excoriated the Zentrum for working with the SPD, and who were deeply anti-Semitic, but who also rejected the völkisch groups because of their anti-Christian and neo-pagan tendencies. The appeal of the Catholic Right's ideology was especially strong among the Catholic nobility of Westphalia, the social group that Papen himself was a proud member of. Völkisch is an untranslatable German word that literally means populist or folksy, but is perhaps best translated as racialist. While the Catholic Right rejected the völkisch ideology because of its anti-Christian slant, but at the same time saw the völkisch groups as allies in their struggle against the Weimar Republic.
Papen stayed in the Zentrum mostly because he hoped to move his party towards the right, and he often advocated that the Zentrum leave the Weimar Coalition to join a coalition with the German National People's Party. In the words of the British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett who lived in Berlin between 1927–34 and knew the "gentleman rider" well, Papen was a "fervent Catholic" who always carried his rosary with him, and was a man of "considerable wealth" as his father-in-law was the richest industrialist in the Saarland. Papen exercised a certain degree of power in the Zentrum by the virtue of being the largest shareholder in the Catholic newspaper Germania, which was the most prestigious of the Catholic papers in Germany. Papen's beliefs were based on a type of Catholic conservatism that believed that sovereignty rested only with God and those He had appointed as His earthly representatives such as the Catholic Church and the aristocracy, which led Papen to a complete rejection of democracy as he felt that sovereignty could not rest with the people. Papen viewed the November Revolution of 1918 as a disaster that had brought "western subjectivism" to Germany, tearing apart the natural order of things and Germany could not recover from this disaster until the democratic system was destroyed. Like many other German Catholic noblemen in the interwar period, Papen had a profound sense of victimization, seeing himself as the victim of a monumental conspiracy. For Papen, European history from the time of the Enlightenment onward was a continuous tale of woe and decline as the "false doctrines" of rationalism, liberalism, republicanism, democracy and secularism had gained ascendancy at the expense of the "true" Catholic and aristocratic values. For Papen, like many Catholic noblemen, the authors of these disastrous developments were the Freemasons and the Jews. For Papen, the present was culmination of all he hated as he saw various developments like Marxism, women's rights, individualism, "economic egoism", democracy and the "de-Christianization" of German culture as part and parcel of the same conspiracy that had allegedly begun in 18th century France.
Papen was a member of the Landtag of Prussia from 1921 to 1928 and from 1930 to 1932, representing a rural, Catholic constituency in Westphalia. Papen rarely attended the sessions of the landtag and never spoke at the meetings during his time as a landtag deputy. Papen tried to have his name entered into the Zentrum party list for the Reichstag elections of May 1924, but was blocked by the Zentrum's leadership who made it clear that they did not want him in the Reichstag, viewing him as a trouble-maker. In February 1925, when Wilhelm Marx of the Zentrum tried to form a coalition government with the SPD in Prussia, Papen was one of the six Zentrum deputies in the landtag who voted with the German National People's Party and the German People's Party against the SPD-Zentrum government. Papen was almost expelled from the Zentrum for breaking with party discipline in the landtag. In the 1925 presidential elections, Papen surprised his party by supporting the right-wing candidate Paul von Hindenburg over Wilhelm Marx. In a 1925 essay, Papen explained his view of Germany:
"The retreat from the universal valid Christian state system since the height of the Middle Ages, the mooring of the present in the principles of a most corrosive subjectivism, the disrespect for divine authority, and the usurpation of the highest state power by the 'sovereign people'-that is the present situation, which one can hardly better describe in one word: parties!"
In the 1925 election, Papen attacked Marx in a press statement as not a proper Catholic for his willingness to work with the Social Democrats. Papen argued that no real Catholic would work with the SPD, whom Papen denounced as a den of "atheistic socialism" and "left-liberal rationalism". In a 1927 article in a Catholic magazine, Papen denounced the Zentrum for accepting the Weimar Republic as he maintained that the constitution of 1919 was based on the "fallacy" that sovereignty rested with the people whereas Papen maintained sovereignty rested only with God and those whom God had entrusted with power. In May 1927 in a speech before a group of Catholic noblemen in Silesia, Papen repeated his Catholic conservative critique of the Weimar Republic as a monstrosity based on the "error" of popular sovereignty and suggested that the remedy was a union of all the German right, saying that in this struggle conservative Catholics would have to work with conservative Protestants against their common "liberal-democratic" foes. In July 1927, in another speech before Catholic aristocrats, this time in Saxony, Papen called for all conservative Catholics to take part in politics, saying that only "the greater participation of the conservatives in the construction of the state" would prevent the triumph of the "liberal-left forces", as he argued that only "the formulation and restoration of a truly conservative weltanschauung on the basis of the teaching of our Holy Church and its revelations in private as well as economic life" could save Germany from the Weimar Republic.
Papen was a member of the highly exclusive Deutscher Herrenklub (German Gentlemen's Club) of Arthur Moeller van den Bruck. Papen, a man completely unknown to the general public, was well known in elite circles in Berlin for his sense of style which together with his colorful and much embellished recounting of his adventures in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Flanders, France and the Ottoman Empire in the World War and his capacity to tell a seemingly endless number of jokes all combined to make a much sought after dinner guest among the elite. Most people knew that the more fanciful exploits Papen described were exaggerations, if not fabrications, but Papen was such an entertaining raconteur who excelled at light conversation that few cared. At the Deutscher Herrenklub, Papen would spend hours drinking and talking with his best friend General Kurt von Schleicher who enjoyed his company. Schleicher and his friends liked to call Papen Fränzchen, a somewhat disparaging diminutive of his name Franz, but the French ambassador André François-Poncet who also a member of the Herrenklub noted:"Papen sometimes served as the butt of their jokes; they enjoyed making fun of and teasing him, without him taking the least offense".
Around about 1926, Schleicher came up with the idea of "presidential government" to move Germany back towards a dictatorship by stages via the "25/48/53" formula. The "25/48/53 formula" referred to the three articles of the Constitution that could make a "Presidential government" possible:
Schleicher's idea was to have Hindenburg appoint as chancellor a man of Schleicher's choosing, who would rule under the provisions of Article 48. If the Reichstag should threaten to annul any laws so passed, Hindenburg could counter with the threat of dissolution. In March 1930, Papen welcomed the coming of presidential government, saying this was the most hopeful sign as yet seen in politics. However, as the presidential government of Heinrich Brüning depended upon the Social Democrats in the Reichstag to "tolerate" it by not voting to cancel laws passed under Article 48, Papen grew more critical. In a speech before a group of farmers in October 1931, Papen called for Brüning to disallow the SPD and base his presidential government on "tolerance" from the NSDAP instead. Papen demanded that Brüning transform the "concealed dictatorship" of a presidential government into a dictatorship that would unite all of the German right under its banner. In the 1932 presidential elections, Papen voted for Hindenburg on the grounds he was the best man to unite the right while in the landtag Papen voted for the Nazi Hans Kerrl who was running to be the speaker of the landtag. In a letter to the editor of the conservative journal Der Ring in April 1932, Papen once again repeated his favorite thesis that the Zentrum would best serve Germany by joining a "genuinely conservative state bloc" that he claimed was emerging in Germany.
On 28 April 1932, General Kurt von Schleicher met secretly with Adolf Hitler to tell him that the Reichswehr was opposed to the ban imposed on the SA and the SS by Chancellor Heinrich Brüning on 13 April 1932 and he would have it lifted as soon as possible. On 7 May 1932, Schleicher at another secret meeting with Hitler told him that he was working to bring down Brüning and replace him with a new right-wing "presidential government", which Schleicher asked Hitler to support. On 8 May 1932, Hitler and Schleicher reached a "gentleman's agreement" where Schleicher would bring down Brüning, install a new presidential government, lift the ban on the SA and the SS, and would dissolve the Reichstag for elections in the summer of 1932. In exchange, after the elections, Hitler promised to support the new government, whose head Schleicher had not yet selected, and whose purpose Schleicher assured Hitler was the destruction of democracy. After some searching, Schleicher decided his old friend Papen would be the chancellor in the new government he was creating. Papen was not Schleicher's first choice, and it was only after Kuno von Westarp, Alfred Hugenberg, and Carl Friedrich Goerdeler all turned out to be unsuitable for various reasons that Schleicher chose Papen. When a friend warned Schleicher that Papen was regarded as a man with not much of a head, viewed as an "airhead" to use the modern parlance, Schleicher replied "He need not have [a head], but he'll make a fine hat!".
On 1 June 1932 Papen 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. 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. The extent that Schleicher was responsible for the Papen government could be seen in that Schleicher had selected the entire cabinet himself before he even had approached Papen with the offer to be chancellor: after Papen had accepted the offer to serve as chancellor, Schleicher simply presented Papen with his list, and told him that this was to be his cabinet. The day before, Papen 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.
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."  François-Poncet, who knew Papen well thanks to their shared membership in the prestigious Deutscher Herrenklub (German Gentleman's Club) of Berlin, noted that Papen's "face bears the mark of frivolity of which he has never been able to rid himself. As for the rest, he is not regarded as a personality of the first rank...One quality he clearly does possess: cheek, audacity, an amiable audacity of which he seems unaware. He is one of those persons who shouldn't be dared to undertake a dangerous enterprise because they accept all dares, take all bets. If he succeeds, he bursts with pleasure; if he fails, he exits with a pirouette".
The cabinet which Papen formed was known as the "cabinet of barons" or as the "cabinet of monocles" and was widely regarded with ridicule by Germans. Papen had virtually no support in the Reichstag; the only parties committed to supporting him was the far-right/national conservative German National People's Party (DNVP) and German People's Party. However, Papen became very close to Hindenburg. The French Ambassador André François-Poncet reported to his superiors in the Quai d'Orsay about Papen's influence on Hindenburg that "It's he [Papen] who is the preferred one, the favorite of the Marshal; he diverts the old man through his vivacity, his playfulness; he flatters him by showing him respect and devotion; he beguiles him with his daring; he is in [Hindenburg's] eyes the perfect gentleman." Papen first met Hitler in June 1932, and found him a ridiculous figure. Papen always spoke his German with an aristocratic, Westphalian accent and found Hitler with his lower-class Austrian accent of German to be an absurd man, deserving only of contempt. Papen wrote about his meeting with Hitler:
"I found him curiously unimpressive. I could detect no inner quality which might explain his extraordinary hold on the masses. He was wearing a dark blue suit and seemed the complete petite-bourgeous. He had an unhealthy complexion, and with his little moustache and curious hair style had an indefinable bohemian quality. His demeanor was modest and polite, and although I had heard much about the magnetic quality of his eyes, I do not remember being impressed by them...As he talked about his party's aims I was struck by the fanatical insistence with which he presented his arguments. I realized that the fate of my Government would depend to a large extent on the willingness of this man and his followers to back me up, and that this would be the most difficult problem with which I should have to deal. He made it clear that he would not be content with a subordinate role and intended in due course to demand plenary powers for himself. 'I regard your Cabinet only as a temporary solution, and will continue my efforts to make my party the strongest in the country. The Chancellorship will then devolve on me', he said".
The first act of the Papen government was to dissolve the Reichstag in accordance with the "gentlemen's agreement" Schleicher had reached with Hitler on 4 June 1932. As the Nazis had done very well in Länder elections that spring in Oldenburg and Mecklenburg-Schwerin, winning nearly 50% of the vote in both elections, it was reasonably expected by all concerned that the dissolution of the Reichstag only two years into its four-year term would only benefit the National Socialists. As a presidential government, Papen ruled by Article 48, having his emergency decrees signed into law by President Hindenburg and did not seek to govern via the Reichstag. However, the Reichstag could by majority vote cancel any law passed by Article 48 within sixty days of it being signed into law and could pass a vote of no-confidence in the government, which meant that Papen like Brüning before him needed a friendly majority in the Reichstag. As Papen made no secret of his rabid hostility to the Social Democrats and the Zentrum hated him for his role in bringing down Brüning, it was unlikely that the Reichstag elected in 1930 would "tolerate" his government the same way it had the Brüning government. Papen called a national election for July 1932, in the hope that the Nazis would win the largest number of seats in the Reichstag, which would allow him the majority he needed to create a dictatorship. On 15 June 1932, the new government lifted the ban on the SA and the SS, who were secretly encouraged to indulge in as much violence as possible as Schleicher wanted mayhem on the streets to justify the new authoritarian regime he was creating.
On June–July 1932 Papen represented Germany at the Lausanne conference where on 9 July 1932 reparations were cancelled, which Papen followed up by "repudiating" Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles (President Hindenburg had repudiated Article 231 in 1927, a speech that Papen appeared not to be aware of). Speaking at the Lausanne Conference, Papen blamed all of Germany's economic problems on the Treaty of Versailles, saying: "The external debt of Germany, with its very heavy interest charges, is, for the most, attributable to the transfers of capital, and the withdrawals of credits which have been the consequence of the execution of the Treaty of Versailles and of the reparations agreements." During the conference, Papen become famous for his unorthodox style of diplomacy, as he took to speaking frankly to the press about what was going during the conference, which greatly annoyed the other delegates who did not appreciate Papen leaking everything to the media. Papen's intention in leaking so much was to appeal to public opinion in France and the UK by portraying Germany as economically victimized by the Treaty of Versailles as a way of forcing concessions. Papen's tactics failed as he came across as believing that Germany was the only nation in the world suffering from the Great Depression, which did not appeal much to the British and French people who were also suffering. Papen expressed the viewpoint both at the conference table and to the media that Germany was a wronged nation and it was up to France and the UK to make all the concessions, and he should not have to make any compromises.
At a meeting with the French Premier Édouard Herriot on 24 June 1932 during the Lausanne conference, Papen offered him a military alliance, an "economic union" between their nations and a "consultative pact" where both France and Germany would not take action in foreign policy without consulting each other first; in return Papen wanted an end to reparations, the right to "revise" the border with Poland, an Anschluss with Austria, and the end of the military restrictions imposed by Versailles. Herriot was cool to this offer, not the least of which was because Papen took an ultra-nationalist line when addressing German audiences, which led him to doubt Papen's sincerity. Papen leaked his offer to Herriot to a French journalist, which was followed by him saying: "France need have no fear about Germany's good faith because unlike Brüning, I represent all of the national [i.e. conservative] forces of Germany". A number of German conservative newspapers in editorials vigorously denied that Papen spoke for them in making an offer of alliance with France.
Germany had ceased paying reparations in June 1931 under the Hoover moratorium, and most of the groundwork for the Lausanne conference had been done by Brüning, but Papen took all the credit for the Lausanne conference, announcing in a speech that it was his "statesmanship" that had freed Germany from paying reparations to France and repudiated the "war guilt lie" of Article 231. In exchange for cancelling reparations, Germany was supposed to make a one-time payment of 3 million Reichmarks to France, a commitment that Papen repudiated immediately upon his return to Berlin. The British historian Anthony Nicolls noted Papen's diplomatic successes did not make Papen popular with the German people at all, which disproves the thesis that it was inflexibility on the part of the Allies in revising the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in Germany's favor that caused the rise of the Nazis.
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. Papen's economic policies, which were all passed by Article 48, were to sharply cut the payments offered by the unemployment insurance fund, subject all jobless Germans seeking unemployment insurance to a very strict means test, had wages drastically lowered (including those reached by collective bargaining) while bringing in very generous tax cuts to corporations and the rich. Papen argued that lowering taxes on the well off and corporations would encourage them to spend and create jobs; that lowering wages would encourage businesses to hire and reducing unemployment insurance would force the jobless (whom Papen often implied were just lazy people who didn't want to work) to find work; and thus alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. As 1932 was the worst year of the Great Depression with joblessness at an all-time high, Papen's economic policies of favoring the rich while punishing the poor enraged ordinary Germans, making him into Germany's most hated man. Papen reveled in his unpopularity and took a great deal of pleasure in taunting and baiting his critics as he enjoyed provoking people. Papen's thesis that lowering wages would make employers more likely to hire and less likely to fire employees was not a popular one as he was widely viewed as engaging in "one-sided catering" to big business.
The street violence in Germany had largely ceased in the period 13 April-15 June 1932 when the SA and SS had been banned, and it was only after Papen lifted the ban that street violence returned with a vengeance. 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. Papen took no responsibility for lifting the ban and blamed the Social Democratic Prussian minister-president Otto Braun for the violence, claiming with no real proof that Braun had ordered the Prussian police to support the Communists against the Nazis. Papen had been looking for a reason to take over Prussia right from the beginning of his Chancellorship, and only held back because he lacked a convincing excuse. On 11 July 1932, with the exception of the Labour Minister Schäffer, the entire cabinet voted to depose the Braun government provided that Papen could find a believable excuse, and on the next day, the Interior Minister Baron Wilhlem von Gayl found that excuse, reporting he heard a rumor that the Social Democrats and Communists were planning a merger. The fact that Social Democrats and Communists were engaging in street battles, which might suggest that this rumor was just that, was disregarded and Papen promptly visited Hindenburg at his estate at Neudeck to ask for and receive a decree allowing the Reich government to take over the Prussian government. In this meeting with Hindenburg, Papen did not talk much about the alleged plans for a SPD-KPD merger, instead saying that the decree was necessary because the Reich and Prussian governments should be headed by the same man as was the case in Imperial Germany. On 20 July 1932, Papen launched a coup against the centre-left coalition government of Prussia, which was dominated by the Social Democrats (the so-called Preußenschlag). The 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." Berlin was put on military shutdown and Papen sent men to arrest the Prussian authorities, whom he accused with no evidence of being in league with the Communists. Hereafter, Papen declared himself commissioner of Prussia by way of an emergency decree which he elicited from Hindenburg, further weakening the democracy of the Weimar Republic. It was after the Preußenschlag that those Germans who believed in democracy who had been in high spirits in the spring of 1932 began to display a passive, demoralized attitude after Papen's coup as the sense grew that they were playing in a game that was rigged against them.
In Germany, the Reich government made laws, but the Länder governments were responsible for enforcing them as the Reich government had no police force of its own. When Prussia was ruled by Social Democrats, Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality illegal was not enforced as the SPD had long argued for the legalization of homosexuality. With the Preußenschlag, and with Papen serving as the Commissioner for Prussia, this changed as Papen ordered the Prussian police to start enforcing Paragraph 175 and to crack down on "sexual immorality" by banning nude bathing, pornography, and nude dancing together with a law ordering women not to wear "suggestive" clothing in public, though Papen did not ban soliciting by prostitutes as he had promised to. Despite his very acrimonious split with the Zentrum, Papen still had hopes of having the Zentrum support his government, and cracking down on "sexual immorality" in Prussia offered a possible way of winning support from the Catholic church, which supported the Zentrum. But the same time, Papen wished to trade a full scale crackdown in exchange for the Zentrum supporting his government, which explained why Papen's crackdown was not as harsh as many Catholic conservatives would have liked. Papen had hopes in the summer of 1932 of attracting support in the Reichstag of a "black-brown" coalition of the Zentrum and the NSDAP.
In foreign affairs, Papen's principal interest was achieving Gleichberechtigung ("equality of status") as doing away with the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles was known at the World Disarmament Conference, demanding that either Germany be allowed to rearm or the other powers disarm down to the same levels as the Treaty of Versailles had imposed on the Reich (the latter was not a serious demand). On 23 July 1932, Papen had Germany walk out of the World Disarmament Conference following objections from the French delegation that allowing Germany Gleichberechtigung would cause another world war, and Papen announced that the Reich would not return to the conference until the other powers agreed to consider his demand for Gleichberechtigung.
In the Reichstag election of 31 July 1932, the Nazis gained 123 seats, becoming the largest party. Papen expected the Nazis to honor the "gentleman's agreement" by supporting his government and offered Hitler the position of Vice-Chancellor. Hitler however reneged on the "gentleman's agreement" he reached with Schleicher by demanding the Chancellorship for himself. The historian Mary Fulbrook writes that by gaining the largest number of seats in the Reichstag in the elections of 31 July 1932 the Nazis formed "an anti-parliamentary majority not prepared to tolerate the government of von Papen." On 8 August 1932 Papen, who liked to take a tough law-and-order stance, brought in via Article 48 a new law which drastically streamlined the judicial process in death penalty cases while limiting the right of appeal so that the courts could hand down as many death sentences as possible and as many as could be executed as possible. At the time, Papen announced that he expected his new law to be used against "Marxist terrorists"- in the Weimar Republic, the phrase Marxism described both the SPD and the KPD. In an editorial written by Alfred Rosenberg in the Völkischer Beobachter praised Papen for his new law, which Rosenberg called the "beginning towards the annihilation of the red murder banditry". A few hours later in the town of Potempa, five SA men broke into the house of a Communist laborer Konrad Pietrzuch and proceeded to torture, castrate and murder Pietrzuch in front of his mother, launching the cause célèbre of the Potempa Murder of 1932.  Pietrzuch was shot twice, stabbed 29 times, and his body had been severely beaten; despite his wounds, Pietrzuch had died as a result of drowning in his blood with the coroner estimating that it took him about half an hour to die. Potempa was a small, ethically mixed village in Silesia located 3 miles from the border with Poland, located in the middle of a vast forest, that was dominated by a feud by a mostly German middle-class who tended to vote Nazi and mostly Polish lower-class who tended to vote Communist, which injected additional venom into Nazi-Communist fighting in the village.
On 11 August 1932, the public holiday of Constitution Day in Germany to celebrate the adoption of the Weimar Constitution in 1919, Papen together with his Interior Minister Baron Wilhelm von Gayl called a press conference, apparently with no sense of the irony involved, to announce their plans for a new constitution which would turn Germany into a dictatorship. On 13 August 1932, Hitler met with Hindenburg to ask be named Chancellor and was refused. Hindenburg told Hitler as recorded by his Chief of Staff Otto Meissner:
"The Reich President in reply said firmly that he must answer this demand with a clear, unyielding "No". He could not justify before God, before his conscience, or before the Fatherland the transfer of the whole authority of government to a single party, especially to a party that was biased against people who had different views from their own. There were a number of other reasons against it, upon which he did not wish to enlarge in detail, such as fear of increased unrest, the effect on foreign countries, etc".
On 22 August 1932 Papen's new law of 8 August (which proscribed the death penalty in all cases of politically motivated murder) was put to the test with "Potempa five" were promptly convicted and sentenced to death, becoming in the process Nazi heroes as Hitler sent them a telegram praising them as great German heroes. Alfred Rosenberg in an editorial in the Völkischer Beobachter declared that killing an ethnic Pole like Pietrzuch was no crime as National Socialists like himself rejected the principle that the life of a Pole was equal to the life of a German as National Socialism was based on the belief in the inequality of humanity. The Potempa case generated enormous media attention, and Hitler made it clear that he would not support Papen's government if the "Potempa five" were executed. In an article in the Völkischer Beobachter, Hitler wrote about the Potempa case: "Herr von Papen, I now know your bloody objectivity well...We will liberate the concept of 'national-mindedness' from the clutches of an 'objectivity' whose inner essence sets the judgement of Beuthen against nationalist Germany. Herr von Papen has thereby engraved his name with the blood of national warriors on German history". Ever the Herrenreiter (gentleman rider) confident that he would surmount any obstacle, Papen was not perturbed by this barely veiled threat of violence against himself if the "Potempa five" were executed. On 2 September 1932, Papen in his capacity as Reich Commissioner for Prussia reduced the sentences of the five SA men down to life imprisonment, supposedly because the "Potempa five" were not aware of his law at the time they castrated and murdered Pietrzuch, but in reality because he was hoping for Nazi support of his government. The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw noted that the way in which the National Socialists from Hitler on down praised the "Potempa five" as heroes for torturing, castrating and murdering a man, all because he was a Communist and an ethnic Pole and demanded freedom for the "Potempa five" under the grounds that no German should be punished for killing an ethnic Polish Communist should have been fair warning to Papen and his fellow conservatives about what to expect if Hitler ever became Chancellor.
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. When the Reichstag met on 12 September 1932, it managed to elect Hermann Göring as its speaker, which was followed by a Communist motion of no confidence in the Papen government. Papen had anticipated this gambit, however. He knew that the Communist no-confidence motion would only be entertained if the other parties all agreed to a last-minute change in the Reichstag's agenda. Alfred Hugenberg had promised Papen that the DNVP would object to the Communist motion. Hearing reports that the NSDAP and the Zentrum were in talks about forming a new government, Hugenberg ordered the DNVP not to object to the change in agenda without telling Papen as part of an effort to save his government as he believed the Nazis would have to vote against the Communist no-confidence motion to avoid a new election. However, when no one objected, Papen ordered one of his messengers to fetch the dissolution decree. Göring phoned Hitler in Munich, asking him whether the Nazis should vote for the Communist no-confidence motion, and was ordered to vote ja (yes). Papen demanded the floor in order to read the dissolution decree, but Göring pretended not to see him. The motion carried by 512 votes to 42-a result that German historian Eberhard Kolb described as a defeat "such as had never been known in German parliamentary history." Angry and red-faced as Göring ignored him, Papen threw the decree dissolving the Reichstag at him and stormed out. Realizing that he did not have nearly enough support to go through with his plan to subvert the republic from within, Papen decided to call another election to punish the Reichstag for voting against his government. Papen had planned not to call another election after dissolving the Reichstag, but he changed his mind after the NSDAP and the Zentrum threatened to use Article 59 of the constitution, which allowed for impeachment of the president if he violated the constitution, and after Hindenburg's lawyers informed him that dissolving the Reichstag without scheduling new elections was an impeachable offense.
On 1 October 1932, Papen delivered a speech on German radio outlining what his government was attempting to achieve. Papen stated the "enemy of the people" was "cultural bolshevism" which was working to "subvert the spiritual foundation of our existence, loyalty to our people, as well as faith in the eternal truths of Christianity". Papen called for a "conservative policy of renewal" of raising the "supremacy of state power" as the "fundamental error of the enyclopaedists and the liberal era was the proclamation of unlimited freedom of thought, that freedom which destroys before it has constructed anything, that freedom which in molding public opinion reproduces itself daily by the thousands, yet conveys to the people nothing, but the corrosive poison of negative criticism and spiritual abnegation". To which end, Papen called for the creation of the volksgemeinschaft (the "people's community" or "national community") that would unite the German people as one. Papen ended his speech with the call for Christian renewal, saying "The doctrines of Christianity, which have already trained and watched over the European peoples for over a thousand years, and to which the spiritual life of the German people in particular is inextricably bound, are more vital to us today than ever."
Though Schleicher approved of Papen's politics, a certain tension had emerged partly because Papen had proved himself far more aggressive and assertive than Schleicher had expected as the goofy Fränzchen had become a man who saw himself as one of history's Great Men and partly because Schleicher disapproved of Papen's style of provoking ordinary people with the general telling the chancellor that insulting people was not the best way to make them like you. Schleicher wanted the "New State" to enjoy popular legitimacy, and was increasing convinced that Papen's massive unpopularity would denude the "New State" of any legitimacy. On 27 October 1932, the Supreme Court of Germany in a convoluted ruling declared that Papen's coup deposing the Prussian government was illegal as Papen's lawyers had failed to prove his claim that the coup was necessary because the Social Democrats and Communists were allegedly about to merger, but also allowed for Papen to retain his control of Prussia, giving no means for Braun to resume office as the court ruled that the Reich government could depose a Land government if law and order were threatened. In November 1932, Papen showed his contempt for the terms of the Treaty of Versailles by passing an umbau (rebuilding) programme for the German Navy of one aircraft carrier, six cruisers, six destroyer flotillas, sixteen U-boats and six battleships, intended to allow Germany to control both the North Sea and the Baltic. Versailles had forbidden Germany to have battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines.
In the November 1932 election the Nazis lost seats, but Papen was still unable to get a Reichstag that would not pass a vote of no-confidence like the one that brought down his first government. 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. Hitler wanted a presidential government, but Hindenburg stated that he would allow Hitler a parliamentary government. On 24 November 1932, during the course of another Hitler–Hindenburg meeting, Hindenburg stated his fears that "a presidential cabinet led by Hitler would necessarily develop into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extreme aggravation of the conflicts within the German people".Soon afterward, under pressure from Schleicher, Papen resigned on 17 November, and formed a caretaker government. In November 1932, Paul Dinichert, the Swiss ambassador to Germany reported: "I left Herr von Papen with the impression of having spoken with a really glib man who cannot be blamed if one gets bored in his presence. Whether this should be the principal trait of the man who today governs Germany is, to be sure, another question." Konrad Adenauer who knew Papen well often said: "I always gave him the benefit of mitigating circumstances given his enormous limitations."
Papen hoped to be 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. Papen told his cabinet that he planned to pursue his "fighting programme" for constitutional and economic reforms even at the risk of civil war, and to circumvent the problem of a hostile Reichstag, which could pass a motion of no-confidence in his government or cancel his laws issued under Article 48, by having martial law declared, which would allow him to rule as a dictator. However, at a cabinet meeting the next day, Papen was informed that there was no way to maintain order against the Nazis and Communists as Schleicher's associate General Eugen Ott presented the results of a war games study to the cabinet showing the Reichswehr could not handle the various paramilitary groups if martial law were declared. As Ott was one of Schleicher's closest associates, Papen suspected the war games study had been rigged to suggest that martial law was not an option, an impression reinforced to historians by the fact that a month later in January 1933, Schleicher was to tell Hindenburg that the Reichswehr could easily defeat all of the paramilitary groups if martial law were declared. 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. Hindenburg took the loss of Papen very badly, and gave him a present of a picture of himself on which he had written some lines from a song that began with the line "Once I had a comrade". This was unusual as Hindenburg had never given any of the men who served as Chancellor before any sort of gift when they left office. Schleicher hoped to win the support of the Nazis by threatening to create a schism in the Nazi movement that would force Hitler to support him.
Papen moved out of the Chancellery, at the request of Hindenburg, into an apartment in the Interior Ministry, which was only divided by the Auswärtige Amt on the Wilhelmstrasse between it and the Chancellery. In the spring of 1932, Hindenburg had moved out of the Presidential Palace, which was in need of repair, and into a wing of the Chancellery. By leaving through the backdoor of the Interior Ministry, Papen could enter the gardens of the Chancellery without being noticed, and took advantage of this to regularly visit Hindenburg, where he attacked Schleicher at every chance. Schleicher had promised Hindenburg that he would never attack Papen in public when he became Chancellor, but in a bid to distance himself from the very unpopular Papen, Schleicher in a series of speeches in December 1932-January 1933 did just that. In Hindenburg's mind, Schleicher—by breaking his word—had not behaved as an officer and a gentleman, which made him miss his favorite Chancellor even more.
Papen was deeply embittered by the way his former best friend, Schleicher, had brought him down, and having acquired a taste for power, Papen was determined to be Chancellor again. On 16 December 1932, Papen delivered a speech before the Herrenklub attacking Schleicher and demanding that the NSDAP be included in the government. Schleicher did not see Papen as a threat at all the Chancellor's Chief of Staff Erwin Planck told a group of journalists: "Let him [Papen] talk, he's completely insignificant. No one takes him seriously. Herr von Papen is a pompous ass. This speech is the swan song of a bad loser". It was Papen who initialed contacts with Hitler as he was consumed, in the words of Kolb, with "wounded ambition and a desire for revenge", becoming full of an obsessive hatred for his former best friend Schleicher. Papen contacted a friend, the Cologne banker Baron Kurt von Schröder who also happened to be a NSDAP member, in late December 1932 to ask him to pass on a message to Hitler saying that Hindenburg's previously warm relations with Schleicher were cooling and that he wanted to meet Hitler to discuss a common strategy against Schleicher. On 4 January 1933, Hitler and Papen met at what was supposed to be a secret meeting at Schröder's house in Cologne. Hitler spent much of the meeting ranting about how he should have been named Chancellor in August 1932 after his party won the largest number of seats in the Reichstag with Papen telling the lie that he had tried to persuade Hindenburg to appoint Hitler Chancellor that August, but had been blocked by Schleicher (the opposite was the case). For his part, Papen revealed a marked degree of hatred for Schleicher, with Goebbels writing in his diary afterwards: "He [Papen] wants to bring about his [Schleicher's] fall and get rid of him completely". The principal problem that emerged at the Cologne meeting was the question of who was to be Chancellor, as Papen insisted on having that office for himself whereas Hitler insisted equally vehemently on his "all or nothing" strategy of opposing every government not headed by himself, but the two agreed to keep talking. Papen had strengthened Hitler's hand by revealing to him that Hindenburg had not given Schleicher a decree dissolving the Reichstag nor was likely to do so, which meant when the Reichstag met after its Christmas break on 31 January 1933, it would be possible to bring a vote of no confidence against Schleicher without worrying about new elections.
Before the meeting in Cologne, Papen and Hitler had been photographed going into Schröder's house and the next day 5 January 1933 the news of the Hitler-Papen summit was front-page news all over Germany. Schleicher did not regard the Papen-Hitler talks as a threat, regarding Papen as a silly and foolish man unable to accomplish anything. On 9 January 1933, Papen met with Hindenburg to tell him that he believed that Hitler was now willing to support a presidential government headed by himself. That same day, Papen met with Schleicher to tell him that he had only been seeking to have Hitler support his government at the Cologne meeting, and furthermore he had was not angry about being ousted by him or Schleicher's attacks on him in public. Based on what Papen had told him, Schleicher now believed Hitler was now only seeking to be the defense or interior minister in his government. To continue the talks which started in Cologne, it was decided that henceforth that Papen and Hitler would meet at the house of Joachim von Ribbentrop in Berlin as Ribbentrop was a Nazi who was also an old friend of Papen's going back to their service together in the Ottoman Empire in 1917-18.
The British ambassador Sir Horace Rumbold who met Papen in early January 1933 expressed "the wonder of an observer that the destinies of this great country should have been, even for a short time, in the hands of such a lightweight", commenting that everything Papen had to say was superficial in the extreme and that Papen seemed incapable of critical thinking. Hindenburg told Papen "personally and in strict confidence" that he had his support in attempting to form a new government that would bring in Hitler. As it became increasingly obvious that Schleicher would be unsuccessful in his maneuvering to maintain his chancellorship that would not be defeated by a vote of no-confidence, Papen worked to undermine Schleicher. On 18 January, Papen had lunch at Ribbentrop's house with Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Ernst Röhm where Hitler argued that because the Nazis had done well in a Lander election in Lippe on 15 January that it would be impossible for him to serve as Vice-Chancellor in another government headed by Papen. When Papen replied that he did not have enough influence with Hindenburg to have Hitler appointed as Chancellor, and he would have to settle for being Vice-Chancellor, Hitler stated that he would stick to his "all or nothing" strategy even if it meant the ruin of the Nazi Party.
On 20 January 1933, Papen met with Otto Meissner, Hindenburg's chief of staff, and Major Oskar von Hindenburg, Hindenburg's son who enjoyed much power by controlling access to his father, to tell them he was considering abandoning his claim for the Chancellorship, and instead was considering the idea of a Hitler chancellorship with himself dominating the government. Papen wanted to know if Meissner and the younger Hindenburg would support such an arrangement and if could they persuade the president to accept Hitler as Chancellor and Papen as Vice-Chancellor. On the evening of 22 January 1933, during a meeting at Ribbentrop's house, Papen seeing that Hitler would not budge from his "all or nothing" stance, made the concession of abandoning his claim to the Chancellorship and promised to support Hitler as Chancellor in the proposed "Government of National Concentration". 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, Papen first told Hindenburg of his plans to have Hitler as Chancellor while "boxing" him in, which the president objected to. Ironically, Papen's major problem turned out to be that Hindenburg wanted him to be Chancellor again, and it required much of Papen's powers of persuasion to convince the president that Hitler should be Chancellor instead of himself. Adenauer noted about Papen that "matters of principle never interested him" while the scholar Moritz Bonn who knew Papen called him "probably one of the most consummate liars who ever lived".
On 23 January 1933 Schleicher admitted to Hindenburg that he had been unable to prevent a vote of no-confidence from the Reichstag when it was due to convene on 31 January, and asked the president to declare a state of emergency. By this time, the Junker Hindenburg had become irritated by the Schleicher cabinet's policies affecting the Junkers, being enraged that Schleicher had dithered on the question of raising tariffs instead of raising tariffs as he wanted. The Junkers favored a policy of protectionism to keep their estates in business, and Schleicher had been unable to make up his mind if he wanted a policy of free trade that would have pleased industrialists who wanted access to foreign markets or a policy of protectionism which would have pleased the Junkers. 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 that would not be defeated on a vote of no confidence from the Reichstag, as his government had suffered in September 1932.
Hindenburg refused to grant Schleicher the emergency powers he sought, and Schleicher resigned on 28 January. On the evening of 28 January, Papen met with Hindenburg to tell him that Hitler was moderating his demands, and that most of the men who served in the Schleicher cabinet were willing to serve in a Hitler cabinet. Papen stated he would serve as Vice-Chancellor and Hindenburg told him that he wanted Baron Konstantin von Neurath to remain as Foreign Minister and General Werner von Blomberg to be appointed as Defense Minister as his conditions for a Hitler government. Though Hindenburg did not give his explicit approval to Papen about having Hitler as Chancellor, Papen noted that Hindenburg's demands that Neurath and Blomberg serve in a Hitler cabinet was an important sign that Hindenburg was coming around to accepting Hitler as Chancellor.
In the morning of 29 January, Papen met with Hitler and Hermann Göring at his apartment, where it was agreed that Wilhelm Frick would become Reich Interior Minister and Göring Prussian Interior Minister; in exchange Papen was to serve as Vice-Chancellor and Commissioner for Prussia. It was during the same meeting that Papen first learned that Hitler wanted to dissolve the current Reichstag when he became Chancellor and once the Nazis won a majority of the seats in the ensuing elections to activate the Enabling Act. In the afternoon of that day, Papen had Alfred Hugenberg, Franz Seldte and Theodor Duesterberg over to his apartment to ask for their support. Papen told Hugenberg that he was to be given both the economics and agriculture ministries in the Reich and Prussian governments, fulfilling Hugenberg's long-standing wish to be "economic dictator". Having the DNVP participate in the Hitler government both assuaged Hindenburg's fears about what Hitler might do and increased the number of votes in the Reichstag for the Enabling Act, though Papen did not tell Hugenberg about Hitler's plans for an early election or to pass the Enabling Act as he knew Hugenberg would object. Seldte was won over by a promise that he would serve as labor minister, but Düsterberg objected to Hitler as Chancellor. However, Düsterberg was opposed to democracy, and wanted another presidential government headed by Papen, a course that Papen now rejected, and so Seldte and Hugenberg pressured Düsterberg into going along with a Hitler cabinet after all.
On the evening of 29 January 1933, when the conservative Junker Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin told Papen that his plan to have Hitler as Chancellor while retaining power for himself was an absurd scheme that could only end very badly for everybody, Papen replied: "What do you want? I have the confidence of Hindenburg. In two months we'll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he'll squeal." In the end, the President, who had previously vowed never to allow Hitler (whom he derisively referred to as a 'Bohemian corporal'), to become Chancellor, appointed Hitler to the post on 30 January 1933, with Papen as Vice-Chancellor. The British historian Edgar Feuchtwanger wrote that Schleicher's rapid rise and fall from power was due to the system of presidential government he had created in 1930, as the system of presidential government reduced almost everything down to the whims of President Hindenburg, and gave enormous power to those like Papen who happened to enjoy Hindenburg's trust and favor.  The system of presidential government created very personalized politics where those who had the approval of Hindenburg and his Kamarilla enjoyed power and those who did not were excluded from power, regardless of what the voters felt. On institutional grounds, Papen should have been in a weak position as he was a very unpopular former Chancellor without a seat in the Reichstag or even a political party, whose influence was based entirely on his friendship with Hindenburg. Feuchwanger wrote that Papen was a vain, irresponsible intriguer who was only powerful in January 1933 because he was Hindenburg's favorite politician and the president wanted his favorite back into office again.
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 attend 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. Papen believed that his conservative friends' majority in the Cabinet and his closeness to Hindenburg would keep Hitler in check. To the warning that he was placing himself in Hitler's hands, Papen replied, "You are mistaken. We've hired him." On the morning of 30 January 1933, when Hitler was due to be sworn in as Chancellor by Hindenburg, the "Government of National Concentration" almost collapsed before it began when Hugenberg learned that Hitler planned on dissolving the Reichstag to allow him to get the two-third majority so he could pass the Enabling Act, whereas Hugenberg had been given to believe that the "Government of National Concentration" would rule with the Reichstag elected in November 1932. Passing the Enabling Act would allow Hitler to rule via decree, which would mean that Hitler would not need the support of the DNVP in the Reichstag anymore. Hugenberg knew Hitler well enough to understand what Hitler ruling with the Enabling Act would mean for the DNVP. The discovery that Hitler planned on dissolving the Reichstag caused a lengthy shouting march between Hitler and Hugenberg that delayed the swearing of the Hitler government and was ended when Papen told Hugenberg not to doubt the word of a fellow German and Meissner came out to say Hindenburg was tiring of waiting to swear in the new government. In his 1996 book Hitler's Thirty Days to Power, the US historian Henry Ashby Turner wrote that Papen was "the key figure in steering the course of events toward the disastrous outcome, the person who more than anyone else caused what happened. None of what occurred in January 1933 would have been possible in the absence of his quest for revenge against Schleicher and his hunger for a return to power".
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. The US historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote about the conservative majority of the first Hitler cabinet in 1933 "...that the incredibly low intellectual and political level of most of those who thought they might restrain Hitler by serving in the same cabinet with him rarely put Hitler's abilities to any severe test".
On 1 February 1933, Hitler presented to the cabinet an Article 48 decree law that had been drafted by Papen in November 1932 allowing the police to take people into "protective custody" without charges. It was signed into law by Hindenburg on 4 February as the "Decree for the Protection of the German People". Hitler's first speech on the radio, delivered on 7:00 pm on 1 February 1933 entitled "The appeal of the Reich Government to the German People" was partly written by Papen as the speech praised the need to protect the family and Christianity from "Marxism". However, Papen disapproved of the parts of the speech that called for "two big four-year plans" to end the Great Depression as it "smacked of Soviet methods" to him. On the evening of 27 February 1933, Papen joined Hitler, Göring and Goebbels at the burning Reichstag and told him that he shared their belief that this was the signal for Communist revolution. On 18 March 1933, in his capacity as Reich Commissioner for Prussia, Papen freed the "Potempa Five" whose death sentences he had commuted to life imprisonment in September 1932, under the grounds the murder of Konrad Pietzuch was an act of self-defense, making the five SA "innocent victims" of a miscarriage of justice.
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". The Enabling Act was the legal basis for Hitler's dictatorship as it allowed him to rule by decree without reference to the Reichstag, supposedly because Germany was faced with the threat of a Communist revolution, for four years (the Enabling Act was duly renewed in 1937 and 1941; however, on the latter occasion, the Reichstag extended the Enabling Act for the rest of Hitler's lifetime). After the Enabling Act was passed, the cabinet started to meet less and less as Hitler hated attending cabinet meetings, which thus neutralized Papen's attempt to "box" Hitler in by requiring the cabinet be the main organ of decision-making as the cabinet simply did not meet.
Papen bore a deep grudge against the Zentrum for opposing his Chancellorship in 1932 and endorsed Hitler's plan presented at a cabinet meeting on 7 March 1933 that the best way to destroy the Zentrum without alienating the majority of German Catholics who voted for the Zentrum was to sever the Catholic Church from the Zentrum. This was the origin of the Reichskonkordat that Papen was to negotiate with the Roman Catholic Church later in the spring of 1933. Hitler wanted to bring German Catholics into the volksgemeinschaft, and the sort of terrorist methods used against the Marxist parties, namely the SPD and the KPD-both of which were banned- were not used against the Zentrum and the Bavarian People's Party. Realizing belatedly that being a non-party politician had left him in a weak position regarding the NSDAP, Papen founded a new political party on 5 April 1933 called the League of German Catholics Cross and Eagle, which was intended as a conservative Catholic party that would hold the NSDAP in check while at the same time working with the NSDAP. In a letter to Hitler, Papen argued that his party was no threat to the regime as it intended to enlist Catholic support for the "national revolution" (the NSDAP had trouble winning votes in Catholic areas), to create a "common front" between all the factions of the right, and to end the "misunderstandings" between Roman Catholicism and National Socialism. Both the Zentrum and the Bavarian People's Party declined to merge into Papen's new party while the rival Coalition of Catholic Germans which was sponsored by the NSDAP proved more effective at recruiting German Catholics.
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 his stay in Rome, Papen met the Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, and tried to persuade him to end his support for the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss, telling him that Germany had far more to offer Italy than did Austria, an appeal that failed to impress as Mussolini preferred Austria as a buffer state. Papen was by all accounts euphoric at the Reichskonkordat that he negotiated with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli in Rome, believing that this was a diplomatic success that restored his status in Germany, guaranteed the rights of German Catholics in the Third Reich, and required the disbandment of the Zentrum and the Bavarian People's Party, thereby achieving one of Papen's main political goals since June 1932 when he had had to resign rather than be expelled from the Zentrum. A striking aspect of the Reichskonkordat was that it had a secret clause that provided for exemption from conscription for German Catholics studying to be priests, which was unusual since conscription did not return to Germany until March 1935. The secret clause was because Papen had informed Cardinal Pacelli of the intentions of Hitler to violate the Versailles Treaty by bringing back conscription as soon it was opportune. During Papen's absence, the Nazified Landtag of Prussia elected Göring as prime minister on 10 April.
In May 1933, the Zentrum and the Bavarian People's Party voluntarily disbanded themselves in accordance with the Reichskonkordat. Papen saw the end of the Zentrum that he had engineered as one of his greatest achievements, giving him revenge against the party that had rejected him in 1932 and allowed him to boast that one of the Germany's most important political parties since 1870 had just dissolved itself because of an agreement that he had negotiated. Later in May 1933, Papen was forced to disband the League of German Catholics Cross and Eagle owing to lack of public interest, with those Catholics wanting to support the regime joining the NSDAP and those who did not declining to join Papen's party. On 14 July 1933, Papen objected at a Cabinet meeting for the "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring" calling for the sterilization of all mentally and/or physically disabled Germans as violating Catholic teachings, to which Hitler replied "All measures were justified which served the upholding of nationhood". Undaunted, Papen attended a conference held between 20–23 July 1933 called by Abbot Ildefons Herwegen, a Benedictine monk well known for pro-Nazi views, at the Maria Laach Abbey, the subject being the best means of reconciling National Socialism and Roman Catholicism.
In September 1933, Papen visited Budapest to meet the Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös, and to discuss how Germany and Hungary might best co-operate against Czechoslovakia. The talks proceeded well, but a major issue that emerged concerned the efforts of the Nazi Party to take over the community life of the volksdeutsche (ethnic German) minorities in Hungary and in parts of Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia claimed by Hungary. The Hungarians wanted the volksdeutsche minorities in the Banat, Transylvania, Slovakia and Carpathia to agitate to return to Hungary in co-operation with the Magyar minorities, a demand that Papen refused to meet. In September 1933, when the Soviet Union ended its secret military co-operation with Germany, the Soviets justified their move under the grounds that Papen had informed the French of the Soviet support for German violations of the Versailles Treaty, and specifically avoided criticizing Hitler personally. In November 1933, Papen praised Hitler at a cabinet meeting after the referendum on leaving the League of Nations for the "unique, most overwhelming profession of support that a nation has ever given its leader. In nine months, the genius of your leadership and the ideals which you have newly placed before us have succeeded in creating, from a people inwardly torn apart and without hope, a united Reich".
On 14 November 1933, Papen was appointed the Reich Commissioner for the Saar. The Saarland was under the rule of the League of Nations and a referendum was scheduled for 1935 under which the Saarlanders had the option to return to Germany, join France, or retain the status quo. As a conservative Catholic whose wife was from the Saarland, Papen had much understanding of this heavily Catholic region, and Papen gave numerous speeches described as "extremely nationalistic" urging the Saarlanders to vote to return to Germany. Papen spoke at meetings of Catholic groups in the Saarland, painting a picture of Catholic life in Nazi Germany as ideal, and assured his audiences that they had nothing to fear if the Saarland were to become part of the Reich again. Papen was successful in persuading the majority of the Catholic clergy in the Saarland to campaign for a return to Germany, and the 90% vote to return to Germany in the 1935 referendum was due in no small measure to Papen's efforts. In a speech in January 1934, Papen stated that every nation had the right to protect its "blood", and argued that all of the anti-Semitic measures in Germany that had been passed were justified to keep German "blood" pure. Papen stated that he wanted all German Jews to be stripped of their German citizenship and banned from certain professions while also saying that German Jews would have their remaining rights protected and no "excesses" would be allowed. Papen's biographer Richard Rolfs wrote that Papen's antipathy to Jews was based not on völkisch ideology, but rather his prejudices were those of "a devout, Catholic conservative" that were typical of the time.
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 restore the balance of power back to the conservatives by restricting Hitler's power. Of special importance in these talks was the growing conflict between the German military and the paramilitary SA, led by Ernst Röhm and the fact that by May 1934, it had become clear that Hindenburg was dying, with doctors telling Papen that the President only had a few months left to live. In early 1934 Röhm continued to demand that the storm troopers of the SA become the core of a new German army. Many conservatives, including Hindenburg, felt uneasy with the storm troopers' demands, their lack of discipline, and their revolutionary tendencies. Hindenburg's imminent demise put Papen in a weak position. Determined that Hitler should not assume the Presidency by some sort of coup when Hindenburg died, Papen together with Meissner and Oskar von Hindenburg drafted a "political will and last testament", which Hindenburg signed on 11 May 1934. Hindenburg's will praised Hitler for creating the Volksgemeinschaft (people's community), but blocked Hitler from becoming President and called for the restoration of the monarchy. Perhaps the most crucial part of Hindenburg's will, inserted at Papen's request, was the call to dismiss certain National Socialist ministers from the cabinet (although not Hitler), and to have the cabinet meet regularly, which would have achieved Papen's plan of January 1933 to have a broad coalition of the right govern, in which Hitler would play a leading, but not dominant role.
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" and advocated the cessation of SA terror in the streets. Papen intended to "tame" Hitler with the Marburg speech, and gave the speech without any effort at co-ordination beforehand with either Hindenburg or the Reichswehr. The speech had been written by Papen's aide Edgar Julius Jung, and Papen had first seen the text of the speech only two hours before he delivered it at the University of Marburg. Jung had written the speech in April–May 1934, and the former Chancellor Heinrich Brüning had advised Jung against giving the speech to Papen, warning correctly Papen would just deliver it without any planning in advance.
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." Papen attacked the idea of a "second revolution" and warned against the "selfishness, lack of character, insincerity, lack of chivalry and arrogance" and the "false personality cult" prompted by the "German revolution". Papen declared in his speech "Great men are not made by propaganda, but grow out of their actions" and with reference to the demand made by Ernst Röhm for a "second revolution" warned "No nation can live in a continuous state of revolution. Permanent dynamism permits no solid foundations to be laid. Germany cannot live in a continuous state of unrest, to which no ones sees an end". The "Marburg speech" was well received by the graduating students of Marburg university who all loudly cheered on the Vice-Chancellor. Extracts from speech were reproduced in the Frankfurter Zeitung, the most prestigious newspaper in Germany and from there picked up by the foreign press. 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."
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. Papen told Hitler that unless the ban on the Marburg speech was lifted and Hitler declared himself willing to follow the line recommended by Papen in the Marburg speech, he would resign and would inform Hindenburg why he had resigned. 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. Hitler outwitted Papen by telling him that he agreed with all of the criticism of his regime made in the Marburg speech; told him Goebbels was wrong to ban the speech and he would have the ban lifted at once; and promised that the SA would be put in their place, provided Papen agreed not to resign and would meet with Hindenburg in a joint interview with him. Papen agreed and as Kershaw wrote "the moment was lost".
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 and a friend of Röhm's who had been scheming to take advantage of the rift between the SA and the Reichswehr to make a political comeback, 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.
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, Papen's speech writer, amongst others, was shot a few days later. Papen himself was placed under house arrest at his villa with his telephone line cut. Some accounts indicate that this "protective custody" was ordered by Göring, who felt the ex-diplomat could be useful in the future. Some sources suggest that Papen had shared a place with Schleicher on an SS "death list", and that Göring in fact saved him from the purge by ordering his confinement, possibly unwittingly after personal disputes. Papen vehemently objected to being taken into custody, but he later came to the realization that Göring had indeed saved his life.
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. When Hindenburg died on 2 August, the last conservative obstacles to complete Nazi rule were gone.
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. The murdered Dolffuss was replaced as Chancellor by Kurt von Schuschnigg. Weinberg wrote that as Papen was "a schemer without much talent, a bother to Hitler as Vice-Chancellor, and a professing Catholic, he was just the man for the job of bamboozling the Austrians until they could be pressured or intrigued into the Reich". Despite the murders of his friends Jung, Klausener, and Bose together with the murder of his former best friend Schleicher in the Night of the Long Knives, Papen was still loyal to the Nazi regime and he accepted the offer to be ambassador to Austria. Weinberg wrote 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. Papen was a German nationalist who always believed that Austria was destined to join Germany in an Anschluss and felt that a success in bringing that about might restore his career. Papen during his time as an ambassador to Austria stood outside the normal chain of command of the Auswärtige Amt as Papen refused to take orders from the Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath who had served as his foreign minister in 1932 when he was Chancellor, and instead Papen reported directly to Hitler as all of his diplomatic dispatches went to the Führer rather than the Foreign Minister, much to Neurath's vexation as he found himself largely excluded from the decision-making with regards to Austria.
In Hitler's words and from what Papen later remarked, his duty was to restore "normal and friendly relations" between Germany and Austria. Papen, seeing that the support of Italy was Austria's greatest strength, advised Hitler in a memo co-written with Ulrich von Hassell, the German ambassador in Rome, to sign an international agreement on the integrity of Austria to calm Mussolini's fears about Germany as his neighbor on the Brenner Pass. Supported by Neurath, Hitler rejected this approach. However, Papen did meet often with Schuschnigg to assure him that Germany did not wish to annex his country, and only wanted the banned Austrian Nazi Party to participate in Austrian politics. In late 1934-early 1935, Papen took a break from his duties as German ambassador in Vienna to lead the Deutsche Front ("German Front") in the Saarland plebiscite on 13 January 1935, where the League of Nations observers monitoring the vote noted Papen's "ruthless methods" as he campaigned for the region to return to Germany.
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." In 1935, Papen's major fear was that, with international attention focused on the impending Italian invasion of Ethiopia and with Czechoslovakia in crisis after the Nazi front organization the Sudeten Home Front won the majority of the volksdeutsch vote in the elections, Schuschnigg might attempt a Habsburg restoration. On 11 July 1935, Papen handed a note to the Austrians offering a normalization of Austro-German relations where Berlin would order the Austrian Nazis to cease engaging in terrorism in return for Austrian support for German foreign policy. On 28 August 1935, Papen negotiated a deal under which the German press would cease its attacks on the Austrian fascist regime, in return for which the Austrian press would cease its attacks on the German fascist regime. On 1 October 1935, the Austrians indicated their interest in taking up Papen's note from July, but Papen pursued the subsequent talks in a "dilatory" manner as Hitler wanted to see what changes in the international order the Italo-Ethiopian war might cause before signing anything. In the same time, Papen was also offered advice to Hitler on other matters. On 12 March 1936, Papen told Sir Walford Selby, the British ambassador to Austria, that Hitler's offer to return to the League of Nations in exchange for British-French acceptance of the remilitarization of the Rhineland was his idea. In March 1936, the Austro-German talks gathered speed as the German support for Italy's aggression against Ethiopia improved Italo-German relations to such an extent that Schuschnigg became desperate for any sort of deal that might save his country's existence. At this point, Papen informed Schuschnigg that he wanted to see members of the "national opposition" included in the Austrian cabinet as the price for a deal ensuring Austria's existence. To put further pressure on Schuschnigg, Papen had the German embassy start subsidizing the right wing of the Austrian trade union movement, the Freiheitsbund, which staged anti-Semitic and pro-German demonstrations in Vienna and other Austrian cities.
Papen played a major role in negotiating the 1936 Austro-German agreement under which Austria declared itself a "German state" whose foreign policy would always be aligned with Berlin's and allowed for members of the "national opposition" to enter the Austrian cabinet in exchange for which the Austrian Nazis abandoned their terrorist campaign against the government. The treaty Papen signed in Vienna on 11 July 1936 promised that Germany would not seek to annex Austria, but it largely placed Austria in the German sphere of influence and greatly reduced Italian influence on Austria. In July 1936, Papen reported to Hitler that the Austro-German treaty he had just signed was the "decisive step" towards ending Austrian independence, and it was only a matter of time before the Anschluss took place. On 20 July 1936, Papen met with Hitler, and asked that since his work in Austria was now done, if he could be promoted to some other position in the Third Reich. Papen was disappointed to learn that Hitler wanted him to remain as ambassador in Vienna. Papen wanted to see Austria gradually absorbed into the German Reich as the Austrian economy became integrated with the German economy and with Nazis serving in the Austrian cabinet, with the expectation that Austria would eventually disappear into Germany. Papen's gradualist approach to Austria produced tension with the militant faction in the Austrian Nazi Party led by Captain Josef Leopold who wanted a revolution to achieve an Anschluss now.
In March 1937, Papen advised Hitler to proceed cautiously in Austria, and work to improve relations with Italy, Austria's principal ally, before taking any steps towards an Anschluss. In May 1937, Papen told the Hungarian minister in Vienna to prepare for dramatic changes in Central Europe, saying that both Austria and Czechoslovakia were going to "disappear" in the near-future. Papen was in contact with Sir Nevile Henderson, the British ambassador to Germany in the spring of 1937 to discuss how best the UK might co-operate in facilitating changes to Central Europe in a peaceful manner. Weinberg observed that ""The National Socialist Party of Austria had always been a caricature of the German one in its internal dissensions, never papered over effectively by a charismatic personality like Hitler". The Austrian Nazis were forever locked into feuds with one another, and one faction led by Leopold was feuding with Papen. In July 1937, Papen complained to Hitler that the Austrian Nazis with their feuds and half-baked plans for a putsch that were always discovered by the Austrian police were complicating his work in Vienna, which led Hitler to impose Wilhelm Keppler on the Austrian Nazi party as his special representative in an attempt to impose some order on the Austrian Nazis. Papen's differences with the Austrian Nazis were of a degree rather than of kind, and in the summer and fall of 1937, Papen bullied the Austrians in his talks, pressuring them to include more Nazis in the government. In September 1937, Papen returned to Berlin when Benito Mussolini visited Germany, serving as Hitler's adviser on Italo-German talks about Austria. In November 1937, Papen told Hitler that based on his talks with Henderson and Georges Bonnet that he believed it was possible for Germany to take Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the former German colonies in Africa by working with the UK and France. However, Hitler wanted a faster timetable for border changes in Central Europe and in early 1938 was seriously considering replacing Papen with either Hermann Kriebel, the German consul in Shanghai, or Albert Forster, the Gauleiter of the Free City of Danzig. On 14 December 1937, Papen met with Hitler where the latter stated that the Anschluss was going to take place sometime next year. On 8 January 1938, Papen suggested that Hitler and Schuschnigg meet soon to bring additional pressure on the Austrians to submit. In January 1938 Hitler was planning on appointing Papen the German ambassador to Spain, when a crisis in Austro-German relations broke when the Austrian police discovered yet another plan for a putsch by the Austrian Nazis.
Ironically, one of the plots called for Papen's murder by Austrian Nazi sympathisers as a pretext for a retaliatory invasion by Germany. On 25 January 1938, the Austrian police raided the Vienna headquarters of the Austrian Nazi Party, arresting Gauleiter Leopold Tavs, the deputy to Captain Leopold, and discovered a cache of arms. The plans laid out by Captain Leopold called for Papen to be assassinated by Austrian Nazis disguised as policemen, providing the pretext for a German invasion of Austria. The police raid set off the crisis that ultimately led to the Anschluss as the Austrian Chancellor Kurt von Schuschnigg now took up the invitation to meet Hitler to confront him with the evidence that the Austrian Nazis had been planning a putsch contrary to the Austro-German treaty of 1936. Papen told Schuschnigg that Hitler was willing to meet him around 15 February 1938 to discuss the issue raised by the discovery of the plans for a putsch.
Throughout negotiations for the Anschluss with Austria, Papen (with knowledge that both the Vatican and Mussolini were uneasy about the affair) urged Hitler to proceed cautiously so as not to disturb their relationship with the Italians. 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. On 5 February, Hitler told Papen he was going to be reassigned elsewhere but ordered him back to Vienna to set up the summit with Schuschnigg. 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. Papen was not there to experience this moment, perhaps fortunately for him since the Anschluss was later recalled during the Nuremberg Trials.
Papen later served the German government as Ambassador to Turkey from 1939 to 1944. In April 1938, after the retirement of the previous ambassador, Frederich von Keller on his 65th birthday, the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop attempted to appoint Papen as ambassador in Ankara, but the appointment was vetoed by the Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who remembered Papen well with considerable distaste when he had served alongside him in World War I. In November 1938 and in February 1939, the new Turkish president General İsmet İnönü again vetoed Ribbentrop's attempts to have Papen appointed as German ambassador to Turkey; in the interim Hans Kroll was in charge of the German embassy in Ankara. In April 1939, the Turkish foreign minister Şükrü Saracoğlu during a talk with Kroll demanded that the Germans finally appoint a new ambassador to Turkey, saying he was tired of talking only to the First Counselor, which Ribbentrop took advantage of, by saying he was more than happy to have Papen serve as the Reich's ambassador to Turkey. After having demanded that the Germans appoint an ambassador, Turkey now felt obliged to accept Papen as ambassador, although the British ambassador to Turkey Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen noted that both İnönü and Saracoğlu accepted Papen's appointment "without enthusiasm" as they much preferred that anybody other than Papen be the German ambassador. Weinberg noted that "because of its strategic location and the need of Germany's arms industry for its chromium, Turkey was considered exceptionally important by Hitler". Hitler felt that Papen as ambassador to Austria had shown the "necessary finesse and intrigue" he expected of his diplomats and that he was just the man to place Turkey in the Axis sphere of influence. Papen himself was keen to return to Turkey, a place where he served in during World War I.
In April 1939, Italy annexed Albania. Most Turks were deeply angry with seeing the Muslim majority nation Albania, with which they had close historical connections, annexed by a Catholic nation, and as Germany had supported the Italian invasion of Albania in the spring of 1939, both Italy and Germany were unpopular with the Turkish people. In Ankara, there was much fear that Italy, supported by Germany, might invade Greece next, which would then be followed up by invading Turkey. As a former Chancellor, Papen wanted to continue to send his dispatches straight to Hitler as he had done when ambassador to Austria, a demand that Ribbentrop rejected. Ribbentrop succeeded in ensuring that Papen's dispatches went to him, but at the cost of ending his friendship with Papen that went back to 1917, when they had fought together in Palestine.
Papen arrived in Turkey on 27 April 1939, just after the signing of a British-Turkish declaration of friendship, and met with Saracoğlu later that day. Speaking in French (the common language of diplomacy) Saracoğlu told Papen bluntly that Turkey regarded the Italian claim that the entire Mediterranean was Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea") as a threat, which led Papen to say that Turkey did not have to fear the Italians just as long as they were Germany's friends, leading an insulted Saracoğlu to reply that Turkey depended upon the friendship of no-one for their security. Saracoğlu rejected Papen's suggestion of an Italo-Turkish friendship pact, saying such a treaty "would displease Turkey enormously". Saracoğlu also told Papen that Germany's efforts to make the Balkans its sphere of influence both politically and economically were regarded as a threat and wanted to know if the Reich was prepared to go further, leading Papen to say "Jamais d'la vie!" ("I wouldn't dream of it!"), leading Saracoğlu to retort if that was the case, then the Germans could sleep quietly in their beds. Papen found the blunt, plain-speaking, no-nonsense Saracoğlu a difficult man to deal with and left his meeting "visibly disconcerted".
When Papen presented his credentials to President İnönü on 29 April 1939, Papen told him that Turkey had nothing to fear from Italy, and thus had no need to sign an alliance with the UK. Papen misinterpreted İnönü's polite statement that of course he wanted better relations with Germany as a sign he had won Turkey over to a pro-Axis orientation, and after his second meeting with İnönü on 2 May 1939, he was brought to reality when İnönü told him that he regarded Italy's ambitions in the Mediterranean as a major threat, and that as long as Germany was Italy's friend, she could not be Turkey's friend. Papen's rival, the French ambassador René Massigli trumped Papen's efforts to win Turkey over to a pro-Axis foreign policy by arranging for Marshal Maxime Weygand to visit Turkey between 1–5 May 1939, where he was greeted by Turkey with lavish hospitality; and as a tough, crusty old soldier, he enjoyed a rapport with the tough, crusty old soldier, General İnönü, which Papen could not match. İnönü told Weygand that he feared that Germany was out to dominate the world, and he wanted Turkey to join the British-inspired "peace front" that was meant to stop Germany, provided that the Soviet Union also joined the "peace front". Fearing that the British-Turkish declaration might be turned into a British-Turkish alliance, on 15 May 1939 Papen returned to Berlin to meet with Hitler and Ribbentrop to discuss how best to prevent this. During the meeting, Papen learned that Hitler had decided to apply economic pressure on Turkey and had cancelled the delivery of howitzers from the Skoda works that Turkey had already paid for. Cameron Watt wrote that despite Papen's "oily charm", his meetings with İnönü and Saracoğlu in the spring and summer of 1939 were "stormy" as Turkey were most upset that the Germans would not deliver the Skoda howitzers that they paid for in advance unless Turkey disallowed the British-Turkish declaration. Papen was less than honest in his diplomatic dispatches to Berlin as he misrepresented himself as dominating İnönü and Saracoğlu in his meetings with them, whereas the Turkish transcripts show the opposite. Despite Papen's claims that he was steadily pushing Turkey away from joining the "peace front", on 24 June 1939, France and Turkey signed a declaration committing them to upholding collective security in the Balkans, which was a major blow to Papen's efforts to keep Turkey out of the "peace front".
On 21 August 1939, Papen presented Turkey with a diplomatic note that was almost an ultimatum threatening the cancellation of all arms contacts and for the Reich to impose economic sanctions if Turkey did not cease leaning towards joining the British-French "peace front". Papen approved of the German-Soviet nonaggression pact, sending Hitler a telegram congratulating him on his "brilliant diplomatic victory" as Papen believed that the UK and France would never go to war for Poland without the Soviet Union; accordingly he drew the conclusion that Germany could now invade Poland without fear of a world war. After the signing of German-Soviet non-aggression pact in Moscow on 24 August 1939, for a moment, Turkey considered giving in. However, Turkey recovered its nerve, and on 26 August 1939 Saracoğlu told Papen that Germany had broken every promise it had ever made to Turkey, and he did not care if Germany ceased trading with Turkey. On 29 August 1939, İnönü told Papen that Turkey was a sovereign country that nobody would dictate to, and observed that if the Germans did not want Turkish chromium, they did not have to buy it, with İnönü adding just whom the Germans would buy chromium from was an interesting question that he could not answer. The İnönü-Papen meeting of 29 August 1939 left the ambassador "thoroughly uneasy" and he left the meeting in "acute perspiration" as Germany needed Turkish chromium very badly. As Turkey was the only place in the world that the Germans could buy chromium from after the UK's blockade came into effect on 3 September 1939, Turkey had called the German bluff, and the threat of severing German-Turkish trade was not put into practice.
Because Turkey did not join the "peace front" after all, and because Papen spoke Turkish, many were inclined to overrate his powers as ambassador to Turkey with Punch showing Papen in a 1944 cartoon as "Octo-Papen", an octopus whose tentacles were all over the Balkans from the embassy in Ankara, but Watt wrote of Papen that as "… an intriguer he was assiduous, crafty, devious and totally incompetent". Turkish security policy in 1939 was based on the assumption that the Soviet Union would also join the "peace front' with the expectation that the Soviets would bear the brunt of the fighting in Eastern Europe, and the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact threw such a wrench into Turkish planning that İnönü opted for neutrality. Papen had always been completely opposed to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and Hitler's goal of undoing the eastern frontiers imposed on Germany by Versailles was also Papen's goal; only the possibility of a world war that might be caused by Germany attacking Poland in 1939 caused Papen to differ from Hitler. On 1 September 1939, Germany invaded Poland and two days later on 3 September 1939 the UK and France declared war on Germany. Papen claimed later to have been opposed to Hitler's foreign policy in 1939 and was very depressed when he heard the news of the German attack on Poland on the radio as he maintained in his 1952 memoirs that he told his secretary on 1 September 1939 that "this war is the worst crime and greatest madness that Hitler and his clique have ever committed...Nothing will be left but ruins." But despite his claim that he was opposed to the foreign policy of the "madman" Hitler, Papen continued his work of representing the Reich in Turkey under the grounds to resign in protest "would indicate the moral weakening in Germany", which was something that as a good patriotic German he could never do.
During World War II, the German embassy in Ankara played a greater role than merely handling relations with Turkey; instead, the embassy became involved with all of the Balkans in general, leading Papen to complain to Berlin that he was "ambassador only in Turkey, and not in all of the Balkans". On 19 October 1939, Papen suffered a notable setback when Turkey signed a treaty of alliance with France and the UK, though Turkey interpreted the treaty in such a way as to justify remaining neutral, owing to the "Russian clause", which stated that Turkey would not enter a conflict that was likely to cause a war with the Soviet Union. During the first several months of World War II, known as the Phoney War, the conservative Catholic Papen found himself to his own discomfort working together with Soviet diplomats in Ankara to pressure Turkey not to enter the war on the Allied side. In June 1940, with France's defeat, İnönü abandoned his pro-Allied neutrality as he became convinced that Germany was going to win the war, and Papen's influence in Ankara dramatically increased. On 28 June 1940, Papen reported to Ribbentrop that "The game has been won".
In July 1940, the Germans published documents captured from the Quai d'Orsay showing that İnönü was aware of Operation Pike, the UK-French plan in the winter of 1939-40 to bomb the Soviet oil fields in the Caucasus, which seriously strained Soviet-Turkish relations, and as intended drove Turkey to look to Germany as a counterweight. Papen was active in economic diplomacy, and between 1940–42 signed three economic agreements that placed Turkey in the German economic sphere of influence. By January 1944, Turkey was exporting to Germany four times more the volume of goods that were being sent to the UK. In particular, Turkish chromium was crucial for the German war industry, and the German-Turkish economic agreements ensured that Germany received the lion's share of Turkey's chromium exports. Papen argued to Ribbentrop that he understood the Turkish way of thinking, which was based on a desire to uphold their independence at all costs together with a certain opportunism as Turkey wanted to keep a foot in both the Allied and Axis camps in order to profit from the war as much as possible with as little risk to themselves as possible, and accordingly it was better to nudge rather than push Turkey towards the Axis. Papen quoted one Turkish official Hüseyin Numan Menemencioğlu as saying to him: "We are egoists and fight exclusively for ourselves".
In February 1941, Papen's strong hand in Ankara was greatly strengthened when the Wehrmacht entered Bulgaria as a prelude to the invasion of Greece, which meant for the first time that German forces were on the border with Turkish Thrace, which greatly increased the fear of Germany in Turkey. Papen hinted more than once to Turkey that Germany was prepared to support Bulgarian claims to Thrace if Turkey did not prove more accommodating to Germany. When King Boris III of Bulgaria met Hitler, Papen attended the German-Bulgarian summit as a senior adviser on the Balkans to give the impression that the long-standing Bulgarian claims to Thrace were on the agenda, which as planned frightened Turkey. In May 1941 Papen offered İnönü parts of Greece if Turkey were to enter the war on the Axis side, an offer İnönü declined. In May 1941 when the Germans dispatched an expeditionary force to Iraq to fight against the British as the Iraqis had joined the war on the Axis side, İnönü refused Papen's request that the German forces be allowed transit rights to Iraq across Turkey. Papen had offered Turkey parts of Bulgaria, Greece, Iraq and Syria in exchange for transit rights to Iraq, an offer that led to a draft treaty according to German records while Turkey denied having signed such a treaty. The Auswärtige Amt's records state that the treaty was aborted shortly after being signed when Turkey became frightened as the British swiftly gained the upper hand over the Iraqis. The Turkish historian Selim Deringil argued the treaty was indeed signed, but only as a stalling tactic as Turkey were afraid that the Germans might invade their country to reach Iraq, and İnönü had no intention of going through with the treaty. Instead, the Germans used the French mandate of Syria to send their expeditionary force to Iraq. However, one of the railroads linking Syria to Iraq crossed Turkish territory, and Papen persuaded Turkey to allow arms in Syria to be shipped along that line to Iraq, which was a violation of Turkish neutrality that led to furious protests from Knatchbull-Hugessen.
In June 1941, Papen successfully negotiated a Treaty of Friendship and Non-aggression with Turkey, signed on 17 June 1941, which was no sacrifice on Germany's part as the Reich was not planning on invading Turkey and never hesitated to break the treaties it had signed anyway, but prevented Turkey from entering the war on the Allied side. Turkey signed the friendship treaty, but only after Papen dropped the demand that German troops have the right of transit through Turkey to invade the Soviet Union. After Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union that began on 22 June 1941, Papen offered parts of the Caucasus to Turkey as a reward for entering the war on the Axis side. Papen persuaded Turkey to close the Turkish straits to Soviet warships, but was unable to have the straits closed to Soviet merchant ships as he demanded. In August 1941, Papen arranged for Nuri Pasha, the younger brother of Enver Pasha, together with several Pan-Turkic leaders to visit Berlin in a semi-official visit, where Turkey asked for German support for Turkey to annex the Caucasus, Soviet Central Asia and the Chinese province of Xinjiang in exchange for attacking the Soviet Union, a demand that Germans dismissed, not the least which was the Reich desired the oil-rich Caucasus for themselves. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into the war, caused Turkey to doubt the prospect of an Axis victory, but at the same time, Turkish public opinion tended to sympathize with Japan, seen as a fellow Asian power struggling against the Western powers, which caused Ankara to become more determined to stay neutral. Throughout 1942, Papen frequently reported that Turkish officials had told him that they wanted to see the war ended with a compromise peace with neither side victorious. Furthermore, the Great Famine in Greece in 1941–42 caused by Axis occupation policies, that caused the death of about 300,000 Greeks, received much media coverage in Turkey, which was seen as the same fate that Turkey would receive if she should enter the war and be occupied by Germany.
During the war, an agreement between the SS and the Auswärtige Amt ruled that Jews from neutral or allied nations living in nations occupied by Germany could not be deported to the death camps unless the Auswärtige Amt gave its permission first. Papen claimed after the war to have done everything within his power to save Turkish Jews living in countries occupied by Germany from deportation to the death camps, but an examination of the Auswärtige Amt's records do not support this claim. The German historian Corry Guttstadt wrote: "As far as can be discerned from the extensive documentary materials, von Papen did not object once to the deportation of Turkish Jews from the occupied countries of Europe. In fact, he attempted several times to obtain the Turkish government's general consent to the deportation of its Jews. All von Papen did was to suggest a more adroit approach from time to time". During the war, Papen used his connections with Turkish Army officers with whom he served in World War I to try to influence Turkey into the joining the Axis; in addition, he frequently held parties at the German embassy which were attended by leading Turkish politicians; and to further facilitate his work, Papen had use of "special funds" to bribe anyone and everyone in Turkey who was dishonest enough to accept a bribe into following a pro-German line. Papen bribed the editors of the Turkish newspapers with money from the "special funds" to print pro-Axis stories as a bid to win Turkish public opinion. As an ambassador to Turkey, Papen survived a Soviet assassination attempt on 24 February 1942 by agents from the NKVD: a bomb exploded prematurely, killing the bomber and no-one else, although Papen was slightly injured. Papen's rival Knatchbull-Hugessen who often met him at official receptions commented that Papen's name was "universally connected with all that was sharp and disreputable in diplomatic dealings", as everybody considered him an "artful dodger" who seemed "quick and clever on the surface", but who always caused "grave doubts" for "there was something terribly professional about his charm with all its virtuosity which bespoke considerable practice".
In January 1943, Churchill visited Turkey and at the Adana summit with Inönü appeared to have won a promise that Turkey would enter the war on the side of the Allied state later that year. Papen frustrated this British diplomatic gambit partly by getting Hitler to send a letter to Inönü assuring him that Germany had no interest in invading Turkey and partly by threatening to have the Luftwaffe bomb Istanbul if Turkey joined the Allies, telling Inönü that most of the buildings in Turkey's largest city were wooden and would burn well if the Luftwaffe were to bomb that city. In July 1943, the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) recruited a wealthy Czech Jewish businessman living in Istanbul named Alfred Schwartz, whose codename was "Dogwood" and who became the chief OSS agent in Turkey. Schwartz formed the so-called "Dogwood" spy network, which was based in Turkey and stretched all over the Balkans and into Central Europe, and which was the OSS's principal source of information in that part of the world. On his own initiative, Schwartz sought to determine whether US support for anti-Nazi conservatives could be arranged in order to stop the war before the Red Army arrived in Central Europe; and at times Schwartz's agenda contradicted the US policy of unconditional surrender, as he had surmised that the United States was willing to make a negotiated peace with Germany. The OSS via Schwartz tried to infiltrate the German embassy by recruiting a volksdeutsch (ethnic German) journalist from Slovakia living in Turkey named Fritz Fiala, formerly an ardent Nazi who decided to switch sides after the Battle of Stalingrad and who started to work for the OSS in 1943. Fiala was in regular contact with Papen, but Bauer described him as probably a double agent who was merely trying to play off both sides to his own advantage as all of the information he provided to the US was "old" and "inaccurate". The Dogwood group was in contact with Paul Leverkühn, the chief Abwehr station chief in Turkey, who also happened to be a friend of Papen, and although Papen did not negotiate with the Dogwood group, instead dealing with the American OSS agents directly, nevertheless Papen had gotten the idea that the United States wanted a negotiated peace, based on what Leverkühn had told him from his dealings with the Dogwood group.
In the summer and fall of 1943, realizing the war was lost, Papen began attending secret meetings with the agents of the OSS in Istanbul. The meetings were held in Istanbul as Papen was afraid to meet in Ankara because the SD officer Ludwig Carl Moyzisch had orders from Heinrich Himmler to monitor Papen, which Papen knew about. The Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer described Papen as "… a loner, an outsider, a man of tremendous personal ambition and great vanity". Papen exaggerated his power in Germany to the OSS, and asked for US support to make him dictator of a post-Hitler Germany, as Papen wanted a right-wing regime that would avoid the "excesses" of the Nazis. Moyzisch had been monitoring Papen, and was aware of Papen meeting the OSS, but Himmler was himself seeking a separate peace with the Western Allies to allow Germany to focus on defeating the Soviet Union, and ordered Moyzisch to allow the meetings to go ahead. On 5 October 1943, Papen met with the American OSS agent and journalist Theodore Morde of Reader's Digest and told him that he wanted US support to overthrow Hitler and make himself the new dictator of Germany, saying the terms of peace would be that Germany would remain the dominant power in Europe and suggested under his leadership that Germany and the United States would become allies against the Soviet Union. President Franklin Roosevelt rejected this offer when he heard of it, saying he was very doubtful that Papen had the sort of power that he claimed to have to overthrow Hitler, and told the OSS to stop talking to Papen. At the same time, Papen hedged his bets, telling Hitler that he had information from his US contacts to the effect that if the Republicans won the 1944 election, then the United States would make peace with Germany in order to focus on defeating Japan, thereby allowing Germany to defeat the UK and the Soviet Union, and therefore German foreign policy should aim at ensuring President Roosevelt lost the 1944 election. Papen claimed to Hitler that he was talking to the OSS with the intention of making contact with the Republicans to ensure Roosevelt's defeat in the 1944 election.
In October 1943, Papen scored a great coup when he reported to Berlin that the German embassy had been contacted by Elyesa Bazna, the Albanian valet to Knatchbull-Hugessen, the UK's ambassador to Turkey: Banza had gained access to the safe which contained the most important documents in the British Embassy, and he wanted to sell them to the Germans. On 7 November 1943, Papen flew to Berlin to tell Hitler personally that due to Bazna, better known by his codename "Cicero", he now had a very valuable spy working for him as everything that Knatchbull-Hugessen knew he now knew. By December 1943 Papen was faced with the dilemma about how to best act on Bazna's information without triggering British suspicions that there was a spy in their embassy in Ankara. Unknown to Bazna, the Germans paid him with counterfeit British pounds (which ended Bazna's dreams of getting rich, causing him to die in poverty). Papen noted that Bazna that was an extremely greedy and stupid man with no moral values whatsoever, and there was nothing wrong with paying him with counterfeit pounds. Bazna sold Papen a summary of the results of the Tehran conference, from which Papen in turn provided selective quotes to Inönü together with the misleading statement that the UK and the United States had just assigned Turkey to the Soviet sphere of influence after the war, which strained Turkish relations with the Allies.
By January 1944, thanks to the documents sold by Bazna, Papen was reporting to Berlin that he knew everything about British efforts to bring Turkey into the war on the Allied side, and he had a document saying that the UK would focus on the Mediterranean until Operation Overlord was launched that spring. Papen guessed correctly that Operation Overlord was the liberation of France, as the document made it clear that Overlord would not be launched in the Mediterranean, but the document did not say just when and where Overlord would be launched, limiting its value. In January 1944, Papen had learned via the "Cicero documents" of a British plan to have the Royal Air Force use airfields in Turkey to bomb the oil fields of Ploiești in Romania, which supplied Germany with most of its oil. Papen told the Turkish foreign minister Hüseyin Numan Menemencioğlu if Turkey allowed the RAF to use Turkish air fields to bomb Ploiești, then the Luftwaffe would use its bases in Bulgaria and Greece to bomb Turkey, threatening that "the least consequences would be the complete destruction of Istanbul and Izmir". Papen reported to Ribbentrop that thanks to the "Cicero documents" that "this round in the campaign for Turkey has been won by us...a Balkan offensive could not now take place". The British code-breakers at Bletchley Park had intercepted messages from Papen to Ribbentrop and Hitler in January 1944 mentioning a spy code-named Cicero was working in German pay, but as Papen preferred to use the diplomatic mailbag to report information to Berlin, Bletchley Park could not reveal much. A US spy in the Auswärtige Amt, Fritz Kolbe, told the OSS in February 1944 that someone at the UK's embassy in Ankara whose code-name was Cicero was selling secrets to Papen, which triggered an investigation that caused Bazna to break off contact. However, despite the intelligence sold by Bazna, the Allies were winning the war and Turkey, on 20 April 1944, wishing to ingratiate itself with the winners, ceased selling chromium to Germany. On 26 May 1944 Menemencioğlu announced that Turkey was reducing exports to Germany by 50%, and on 2 August 1944 Turkey severed diplomatic relations with Germany, forcing Papen to return to Berlin.
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, became 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. In September 1944, Papen settled at his estate at Wallerfangen in the Saarland that had been given to him by his father-in-law. On 29 November 1944, Papen could hear in the distance the guns of the advancing US Third Army, which caused him and his family to flee deeper into Germany.
Papen was captured along with his son Franz Jr. at his own home by First Lieutenant Thomas McKinley 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. Papen was forced by the US to visit a concentration camp to see first-hand the nature of the regime he had served from start to finish and had done so much to bring about.
Papen was one of the defendants at the main Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. Papen's most tenacious opponent was the British prosecutor Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who challenged Papen in vigorous exchanges on why he served as ambassador to Austria and Turkey after the murder of his friends in the Night of the Long Knives; leading Papen to reply he had a clean conscience as he maintained that he was opposed to the Nazi regime and only served the German people, not the Nazis as a diplomat in Austria and Turkey, leading a sarcastic Fyfe to ask why his dispatches were addressed to Hitler rather than being made public. The investigating Tribunal found no solid evidence to support claims that Papen had been involved in the annexation of Austria. Papen was greatly helped in this regard by the fact that Göring under cross-examination took all the credit for the Anschluss. The highlight of the trial occurred when Papen and Dr. Schacht, to the "oblivious chagrin of each other", both produced affidavits saying that they would have served as foreign minister had the putsch attempt of 20 July 1944 succeeded. Both Papen and Schacht had decided to reinvent their careers under the Third Reich as one of "sand in the machine" as both men claimed to have been secretly sabotaging Hitler's work when serving him, and lawyers for the two men spent much time denouncing the other's affidavit as false. 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. The US and British judges voted to acquit while the Soviet and French judges voted to convict, and under the rules of Nuremberg, this resulted in an acquittal.
Papen was subsequently sentenced to eight years hard labour by a West German denazification court, but was released on appeal in 1949. Until 1954, Papen was forbidden to publish in West Germany, and so he wrote a series of articles in newspapers in Spain – as General Franco approved of his fellow Catholic conservative Papen – attacking the Federal Republic from a conservative Catholic position in much the same terms that he had attacked the Weimar Republic. 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. In 1952 and 1953, Papen published his memoirs in two volumes in Switzerland, in which he used much ink complaining about how unfair it all was that people blamed him for bringing Hitler to power, thus making him at least partly responsible for everything that happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945. Papen made the incredible claim in his memoirs that he did not bring Hitler to power as he was only negotiating with Hitler to save the Schleicher government, which somehow ended with Hitler becoming Chancellor and Papen Vice-Chancellor in the same cabinet through no fault of his own. Weinberg called Papen's 1952 memoir Der Wahrheit eine Gasse "mostly fiction" as Papen recounted in much detail his courageous career as an anti-Nazi resistance fighter who sabotaged Hitler's policies. Right up until his death in 1969, Papen often gave speeches and wrote articles in the newspapers defending himself against the charge that he had played a crucial role in having Hitler appointed Chancellor and that he had served a criminal regime, which led to vitriolic exchanges with West German historians, journalists and political scientists. Rolfs wrote that Papen was "no match" for his "scholarly" critics and "...his "amateurish and often erroneous rebuttals failed to alter his image". Rolfs wrote: "Papen's last years are a tragic record of a man who professed to follow his own conscience, but refused to acknowledge his contribution to Hitler's totalitarian system. Although he completely rejected the Nazi ideology, his willingness to continue to serve Hitler weakened all of his protestations and criticisms of National Socialism". Franz von Papen died in Obersasbach, West Germany, on 2 May 1969 at the age of 89.
|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|
Franz von Papen has been portrayed by the following actors in film, television and theatrical productions;
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|Chancellor of Germany
Kurt von Schleicher
Otto Braun (as prime minister)
|Reichskomissar of Prussia
Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher (as Reichskomissar)
|Prime Minister of Prussia
Hermann R. Dietrich
|Vice-Chancellor of Germany
Hermann Göring (in 1941)
|German Ambassador to Austria
Carl-Hermann Mueller-Graaf (in 1952)
Friedrich von Keller
|German Ambassador to Turkey
Wilhelm Haas (in 1952)